Google on Friday pledged to more closely monitor advertisements that appear alongside YouTube videos, following several British advertisers' decisions to pull their ads after discovering that some appeared with videos containing extremist, homophobic, or racist content.
The British government pulled millions of dollars worth of advertising from YouTube after an investigation by The Times of London found that the government's ads were displayed alongside videos from "rape apologists, anti-Semites, and banned hate preachers."
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The videos, some of which were uploaded by American white nationalist David Duke, carried ads from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, among other advertisers, the Times found. A spokesperson for the UK's Cabinet Office told the BBC that it had temporarily restricted YouTube advertising until Google can prove that the ads are being delivered in a "safe and appropriate way."
Google said that it tries to ensure that ads don't appear alongside videos that violate the company's monetization policies, and that it also offers advertisers control over where their ads appear. But the company acknowledged that "inappropriately monetized" videos still appear.
"We've begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network," Google's UK managing director Ronan Harris wrote in a blog post.
The Cabinet Office was paid more than $7 for every 1,000 YouTube viewers who watched its ads, according to the Times. Cabinet ministers summoned Google representatives on Friday to discuss its advertising policies. Several other advertisers, including The Guardian and British ad agency Havas, also pulled their content from YouTube this week over fears that it would appear alongside objectionable videos.
As Google struggles to keep its advertisers' content away from extremist videos, it is attempting to divert viewers away from those videos as well. Last summer, a Google subsidiary called Jigsaw began experimenting with ads that redirect people searching for extremist content to videos that portray extremist groups like ISIS in a negative light, such as YouTube clips of Muslim clerics pointing out ISIS's hypocrisy.