The BBC and the Cabinet Office were last night among a host of organisations to pull their adverts from YouTube after it was accused of failing to remove virulent antisemitic content which broke the law and breached its own rules.
They suspended advertising after it emerged extremist groups were profiting from a controversial arrangement that meant adverts were being run alongside ‘hate crime’ videos.
Google, which owns YouTube, hands a slice of the revenue generated by adverts to those who post the videos they run alongside. It means terror groups, neo-Nazis and homophobes who upload material to the site are pocketing cash from Government agencies and other household names.
The Government, the BBC, Channel 4 and Transport for London have pulled their advertising from Google's YouTube platform yesterday after it was found many were being run alongside 'hate crime' videos
An advert for the BBC show the Last Kingdom was played before a video of neo Nazis National Rebirth of Poland. In theory, advertisers can blacklist extremist uploaders. But in practice this often does not happen
An investigation by the Times yesterday found that the Home Office, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force all had advertising promotions placed beside video rants from ‘shock-jock’ Michael Savage, who infamously told one gay caller he should ‘get aids and die.’
TfL, which is part-funded by the Government, had adverts running alongside videos by holocaust denier and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Duke, who is a former imperial wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.
Metropolitan Police promotions appeared alongside Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic organisation calling for the establishment of a global caliphate under Sharia law, which is banned in many countries.
The investigation also found that adverts for the BBC and Channel 4 appeared with videos by Egyptian hate preacher Wagdi Ghoneim.
Ghoneim is banned from entering the UK after he reportedly praised Osama bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ and ‘hero’.
WHO PULLED ADS?
• Havas advertising agency
• The Cabinet Office
• Transport for London
• The Financial Conduct Authority
• Channel 4
• The Guardian
None of the organisations knew the adverts would appear alongside extremist content, as they are placed by third party agencies that use complex computer software rather than human judgement to select where promotions appear.
In theory, advertisers can blacklist extremist uploaders. But in practice this often does not happen because of a flaw in the process that relies on the video creators accurately categorising their uploads – which in the case of extremist content is extremely rare.
Individuals or groups posting the videos take a cut of the advertising revenue worth up to £6.15 for every 1,000 views. Many of the hate videos generate millions of hits.
Google does not actively look for hate content on YouTube, instead waiting for users to flag it up. It said that with 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, it would be impossible to proactively police.
This has provoked fury from many firms, who find their brand promoted alongside terrorists. Last month luxury holiday operator Sandals Resorts said it was ‘appalled’ to discover it had been advertised next to a video promoting East African jihadist group Al Shabaab.
The fanatical Islamist network, which is affiliated to Al Qaeda, has plotted a string of atrocities against UK targets, both at home and abroad, and was responsible for the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi that killed 67 people.
Yvette's coruscating letter
Yvette Cooper has written a letter to Google condemning the news that YouTube plays government adverts alongside 'hate crime' videos
Extracts from Yvette Cooper’s letter to Google vice-president Peter Barron:
‘We raised with you National Action, a proscribed organisation which the Government has said is linked with terrorism, and whose activities are now illegal. You agreed that the video we reported to you should be taken down.
‘There are a whole series of hate-filled promotional videos by National Action still on You Tube... It is astonishing that Google and YouTube have not managed to put the words “National Action” into one of your search engines to see what remains on your platform and to remove it.
‘Secondly we raised with you the issue of adverts being put on hate videos so that extremist groups and Google end up profiting from hate. You assured us Google and YouTube “do not allow hate speech or terrorist content to be monetised”.
‘It appears from reports today that this is not the case, and that... Government advertisements and major brands advertising is still being placed on inappropriate and hate-filled sites.
As a result Google and these organisations are still profiting from hatred. Google is the second richest company on the planet.
The lack of effort and social responsibility it is showing towards hate crime is extremely troubling.’
Downing Street yesterday pledged no more Government adverts would be placed on YouTube until it proved it had the ‘technical expertise’ to ensure they were not broadcast in the wrong place.
The BBC and TfL also suspended advertising – as did the Guardian after a promotion appeared with a video from US ‘pick-up artist’ Roosh V, who has been accused of promoting rape.
Channel 4 said it has removed all its advertising from YouTube as it is not satisfied it is a ‘safe environment’. Spokesman Dan Brooke said: ‘We are extremely concerned about ... advertising being placed alongside highly offensive material on YouTube.
‘It is a direct contravention of assurances our media buying agency had received on our behalf from YouTube.’
Google’s managing director Ronan Harris said the firm knows ‘we can and must do more’, adding it spends millions each year to ‘prevent bad advertising practices’.
He said: ‘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.’
Web giants and self-harm images
Google, Facebook and Twitter have been branded ‘morally bankrupt’ for hosting thousands of images showing youngsters how to starve themselves
Google, Facebook and Twitter have been branded ‘morally bankrupt’ for hosting thousands of images showing youngsters how to starve themselves and self harm.
The posts include bloody images of users’ wrists with hashtags such as ‘suicide’ and ‘bleed’. The posts also glamorise eating disorders with pictures, left, of dangerously skeletal bodies and carry a series of practical tips on how to stave off hunger on the ‘no food diet’ Users discuss the best ways to reduce scarring when they cut themselves and the most effective ways to commit suicide.
Labour MP Helen Goodman said: ‘The tech companies don’t seem to be able to distinguish between good natural bodies, such as breastfeeding mothers, and bad naked bodies, such as people starving themselves. I just think they’re totally morally bankrupt.’
Stephen Buckley, of the mental health charity Mind, said: ‘It is vital to recognise the huge danger created by any site or social media trend that promotes or glamorises self-harm, suicide or eating disorders. These are incredibly serious problems.’
Google and Facebook, which both said they worked to protect users, removed some of the content when alerted by the Mail.
Twitter directed us to its lengthy user policy but declined to comment further.
Furious MPs warn net giant they MUST take responsibility for your vile content: Google on rack over cash from hate videos
BY KATHERINE RUSHTON
Yvette Cooper wrote a letter to Google vice-president Peter Barron (pictured), accusing the company of profiting from hatred
Google was accused last night of profiting from hatred.
In a devastating attack, MPs said the technology firm had totally failed to control offensive online content.
Its bosses were charged with breaking promises – made just days ago – to ensure neither the firm, nor extremists, cashed in on vile propaganda.
The Commons home affairs committee said it was astonishing that the second richest company on the planet had failed to take even the simplest steps to root out abuse.
The £482billion American firm suffered a further blow yesterday when ministers suspended all government advertising on its YouTube video-sharing platform.
The Cabinet Office said the ban would be lifted only when Google could all but guarantee public money would not fund hate-fuelled content.
Officials learnt that adverts for public bodies such as UK Aid and the Metropolitan Police had been running alongside YouTube videos containing extremist material.
Google hands a slice of the revenue generated by the adverts to the individuals – or groups – that post the content it features on.
Google executives were summoned to the Cabinet Office for a dressing-down following the investigation by the Times.
‘We want to hear what they are going to do to prevent this happening again,’ said the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.
‘We need to make sure they have the technical expertise to prevent our adverts appearing in the wrong places.’
As the backlash intensified, Group M – a firm which buys up advertising space on behalf of major brands – said it would ask its clients whether they wanted to pull advertising from YouTube.
She wrote: ‘Google is the second richest company on the planet. The lack of effort and social responsibility is extremely troubling'
It called for Google, which made £15.7billion in profits last year, to apologise. The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC have also halted their advertising with the firm.
On Tuesday Google executives assured the home affairs committee it would work harder to remove offensive material, and agreed with MPs that a video by neo-nazi group National Action should be removed.
But in a letter to Google executive Peter Barron last night, Yvette Cooper, chairman of the committee, said National Action videos were still available.
She added: ‘Google is the second richest company on the planet. The lack of effort and social responsibility it is showing towards hate crime on YouTube is extremely troubling.’
During Tuesday’s select committee hearing, Mr Barron admitted the company had no one watching for offensive content. Instead it relies on users to report extreme material.
The firm makes the vast majority of its money from adverts, which it places using complex computer technology.
Miss Cooper told Google: ‘The committee expects to hear from you on how you are using some of YouTube’s very significant revenue to put this problem right'
Those posting videos on YouTube take a cut of the advertising worth up to £6.15 for every 1,000 views, and many are watched millions of times.
According to marketing experts, extremists have made £250,000 from ads for household brands and government departments hosted on Google.
The search giant has earned around £120,000.
One of the biggest earning hate preachers is the Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim. Videos on his YouTube channel have netted him around £63,500. He is banned from visiting the UK.
Rob Norman of Group M said: ‘We believe Google owes two apologies, one to advertisers for compromising their brand reputations and the other to consumers for the presence of the content.’
Google’s UK boss Ronan Harris admitted in a blog published yesterday morning that the company ‘can and must do more’ to combat ‘bad advertising’, and said it had begun to review its systems.
He added: ‘With millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognise that we don’t always get it right.
'In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetisation policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.’
Google and other technology companies do have some measures in place to try and remove child pornography from their websites.
They fund the Internet Watch Foundation, which seeks out offensive material.
However, it relies entirely on users to flag up other kinds of offensive content, which are then reviewed by Google staff.
They look at 98 per cent of the videos within 24 hours, and removed 92million videos from YouTube in 2015.
Miss Cooper told Google: ‘The committee expects to hear from you on how you are using some of YouTube’s very significant revenue to put this problem right by devoting sufficient resources to ensure that vile and illegal material is removed proactively from your platforms, and that neither you nor those that create these videos profit from hatred.