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Google summoned for talks after Government pulls ads from YouTube

18 March 2017

"We have placed a temporary restriction on our YouTube advertising pending reassurances from Google that government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way".

The UK government, along with a handful of businesses, including the Guardian newspaper and L'Oréal, have frozen their Google advertising accounts after their ads appeared alongside websites run by hate preachers, anti-Semites and white nationalists. Google was recently forced to review its ad policies when the United Kingdom government, along with organizations including the BBC, Transport for London and The Guardian itself, pulled their ads over similar brand safety concerns.

Analysis by The Times showed that blacklists which are created to prevent digital adverts from popping up next to extremist content, are not working.

Google has been summoned for talks at the Cabinet Office in light of the revelations uncovered by The Times.

He said the Guardian would be withdrawing its advertising until Google can provide guarantees that this ad misplacement via Google and YouTube will not happen in the future.

Google could face an embarrassing number of refund requests, which it is understood will be issued in the form of credits to advertisers if the company made an error placing an ad and concluded that the material was sufficiently offensive to terminate the account of the publisher.

"It is very clear that this is not the case at the moment", he wrote.

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The government said Google has so far removed a total of 16 videos at its request.

The decision comes weeks after an initial Times investigation, which claimed household names were inadvertently funding extremism by serving ads next to content from terrorists and neo-nazi groups.

Google and Facebook own huge chunks of the digital advertising business, and major brands are spending an increasing share of their ad budgets on their platforms. The ads are being placed there by Google's automated network.

A senior Google executive in the United Kingdom acknowledged the controversy in a blog post on Friday, saying the company does its best to ensure that client ads aren't published alongside offensive content.

The Guardian pulled its ads after they appeared next to extremist material. Harris mentioned topic exclusions and site category exclusion tools in his blog post, but these fall short in their current forms, as we've detailed.

Some of Vietnam's biggest firms have suspended YouTube advertising as the communist country steps up a campaign against online dissent, which has also targeted global brands such as Unilever and Samsung.

In a blog post today, Ronan Harris, managing director of Google UK said that while the company "strongly believes" in freedom of speech, it "recognize [s] the need to have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear". That imbalance may have reached its tipping point in the UK.

Google summoned for talks after Government pulls ads from YouTube