SAN FRANCISCO — In a bid to end a boycott of Google and YouTube by major advertisers in the U.K., Google says it will pull online ads from controversial content, give brands more control over where their ads appear and will deploy more people to enforce its ad policies.
And, amid charges it has not done enough to curtail hate speech on its services, Google broadened its definition to include content that harasses or attacks people based on race, religion, gender or other “similar” categories.
“We know advertisers don’t want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values,” Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, wrote in a . “So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content.”
The moves come in response to a over the placement of online ads from major brands next to offensive or extremist content that prompted some marketers in the U.K. to pull their spending. Adding fuel to the fire: Google’s growing share of digital advertising.
Google had incentive to remedy the situation quickly. The U.K. generated $7.8 billion in 2016 sales for Google parent company Alphabet.
Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser the stock on Monday, saying the U.K. boycott could have global repercussions. Reached on Tuesday, Wieser said Google’s changes don’t go far enough, noting that more advertisers including Volkswagen and Toyota have joined the boycott.
“Google needs to convey more clearly that their goal is zero tolerance for brand unsafe environments when they place ads. Google aspires to ‘moonshots’ so why not pursue a moonshot to get to zero instances here?” Wieser said. “They will undoubtedly solve this problem, or placate concerned advertisers, but it’s too late to prevent enhanced scrutiny.”
Why is this such a significant issue? “Brand safety” has emerged as possibly the biggest issue facing the advertising industry, Wieser says. For large marketers, even one ad placed next to extremist content can cause harm to a brand, he said.
Google reviews content flagged by users. Four hundred hours of video is uploaded every minute to YouTube, Google says, making it tough to police. Some 98% of content flagged on YouTube is reviewed within 24 hours, Google says.
With the changes announced late Monday, advertisers on YouTube and on Google’s advertising system that places ads across the web will be able to exclude websites and videos that are “potentially objectionable,” will have greater latitude to decide where they want their ads to appear and will have more “visibility” on where their ads are running.
“We have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear, and in the vast majority of cases, our policies and tools work as intended,” Schindler wrote. “But at times we don’t get it right.”