Taxpayers funded extremists through online advertising

"Google is responsible for ensuring that the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content". Ads were also placed in clips involving Steven Anderson, a pastor who celebrated the killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando previous year, and the Polish Defence League, a nationalist organization which posts content against Muslims.

The investigation found ads for the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, Transport For London, blood donation campaigns and the BBC were placed in videos by white nationalists, such as Duke.

On Thursday, The Guardian reported it has pulled its advertising from Google and YouTube, after learning its ads were appearing next to extremist content. This method usually works well, given YouTube's existing filters to exclude certain types of videos, but apparently not well enough for many advertisers.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of global ad agency WPP, told news site Business Insider that the advertising controversy reinforces his point that Google and Facebook and other platforms have to admit that they are media companies and face up to their responsibilities.

We have strict guidelines that define where Google ads should appear.

Harris said 400 hours of video was uploaded to YouTube every minute, adding that a year ago Google removed almost two billion "bad ads" from its systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from its AdSense programme and prevented adverts from serving on over 300m YouTube videos.

The U.K. government and the Guardian newspaper stepped up pressure on YouTube to police content that appears on its platform, pulling ads from the video site because they appeared beside clips they view as inappropriate.

The use of programmatic trading, which automates the process of buying and selling advertising online, is increasingly controversial, raising concerns that it both hurts media revenues and supports extremist material. But with hate speech always present on social media, companies want even more control over their messages.

Last month, the ministry identified 17 YouTube videos with content it said distorted historical facts, incited national hatred or was pornographic and would be illegal in Vietnam. That also led to Google to remove PewDiePie from a "family-friendly" ad network he was previously included in and cancel his YouTube Red show.

Representatives for the UK Cabinet Office and the Guardian didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: A spokesperson for the UK Cabinet office told Ars in an email that Google senior executives met with government officials today.

"The decision of our United Kingdom team to pause activity with our partner Google is a temporary move made by the local team on behalf of our United Kingdom clients and their specific needs", she said in an emailed statement.

He urged other brands to blacklist the Google-owned companies until "guarantees that advertising placed on YouTube will not sit next to extremist content in the future".

All government-funded YouTube advertising remains on hold until further notice.

  • Fernando Stephens