Several high-profile brands including Virgin Media, BT and O2 have inadvertently bought advertising placed in front of neo-Nazi content on Google’s video-sharing site YouTube.
The Guardian reports that the neo-Nazi groups Blood & Honour and Combat 18 have participated in Google’s AdSense program, which means that both Google and the extremist groups have earned money from ads placed alongside their videos on YouTube.
The report claims that the groups are using their YouTube channels "to provide links to extremist materials and neo-Nazi Web sites, where discussion groups and literature can be accessed."
Because AdSense is an automated program, neither Google or the aforementioned brands knew that the ads were being placed near questionable content. And because Google does not pre-screen video content uploaded to YouTube, Google didn’t even know the neo-Nazi videos were there. However, once it was alerted to their presence, Google removed them immediately.
YouTube certainly promotes free speech, but per its rules, it does not permit “hate speech,” which it defines as “speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity."
That may be, but The Guardian points out that Google wouldn’t say whether it plans to put any protections in place to prevent a repetition.
The search did say, as it has before, that due to the volume of content uploaded to YouTube -- 60 hours of video per minute or nearly 10 years worth of content every day -- that it cannot pre-screen content before it is uploaded; instead, it relies on users to flag inappropriate videos.
When told that its ads were appearing next to neo-Nazi content, Virgin Media replied that it was “concerned” and would work with Google and its advertising partners “to understand what measures can be put into place to prevent these occurrences going forwards."