Did YouTube Just Step Up On Brand Safety? Finally?

If you want an indication of how seriously YouTube now has to take brand safety, look no further than today's announcement it has received JICWEBS certification.

The UK body represents the advertisers, the ad industry and publishers and has developed brand safety certification that has been available for at least a year or two now. The fact that YouTube has become its most high-profile adopter to date speaks volumes of the pressure that Google is under to get its house in order.

The process has probably been going on for months, and so it was unfortunate timing that it came a couple of days after the tech giants were once again warned by the European Commission that they need to do more. The latest suggestion is that they will be required to take down extremist content within an hour of becoming aware of it. 

Any observer this morning is likely to welcome the move by YouTube, but also to wonder whether this is the tech giant taking a step forward or continuing to be reactive.

Only a fool would suggest that YouTube doesn't take brand safety seriously. It has suffered two mass boycotts over a failure to deal with extremist and inappropriate content that advertisers would not want to risk being associated with. The thing that always stands out here is that it has been investigations from The Times that have highlighted the issues. It always appears that YouTube is caught reacting to the reactions of advertisers who are themselves reacting to a salacious headline pointing to failures. 

Sure, YouTube has tightened rules on who can have advertising next to the video to ensure that a debut message that has few views can be taken down, if it is extremist, before a brand has been embarrassed. But again, it could be perceived as a reaction -- not an independent -- positive step forward by YouTube.

Yes, being certified is most definitely a great way of showing you're on the front foot in the battle against extremism. I'm sure many could be left wondering why the move wasn't made a year or more ago. The standard has been there for at least a couple of years.

To give YouTube a break, however, I'd suggest that the answer is that the JICWEBS standard has only just been recognised on both sides of the pond via an agreement with TAG. With that dual ratification coming, it would make perfect sense for the tech giant to have been waiting to receive the thumbs up to reassure holders of British and American advertising budgets. 

So, I reckon that after a year of YouTube bashing, Google at least deserves some praise for stepping up to the brand safety plate. It could be argued it was late to the party but, actually, it's early days for the standard endorsed by both JICWEBS and TAG.

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