AT&T and Verizon today joined a growing list of companies in both the US and Europe that are pulling advertising from YouTube and millions of Google-partnered websites. The reasoning stems from the potential for big-name brands’ ads to appear next to videos and other content containing hate speech, including white nationalist, sexist, and homophobic content and videos and sites created by and designed for the purpose of promoting terrorism. Similar to how Facebook has moved to reduce the prominence of fake news, Google is now being pressured through a full-scale boycott to distance itself from hate speech and repair the image of its most lucrative ad platforms.
“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms,” an AT&T spokesperson told Recode today. Verizon followed soon thereafter, saying in a statement also obtained by Recode, “Once we were notified that our ads were appearing on non-sanctioned websites, we took immediate action to suspend this type of ad placement and launched an investigation.” Other companies including car rental firm Enterprise and pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline, have followed suit.
The decision mirrors that of a number of companies in the United Kingdom that began pulling advertising from YouTube last week, following an investigation by The Times of London that discovered those companies’ ads were showing up next to extremist content. That investigation led to hundreds of brands — including McDonald’s, Audi, and Toyota — pulling advertising from Google properties and through the company’s ad exchanges.
Google on Tuesday announced that it would work to resolve the issues through a combination of stricter rule enforcement and improved automated and manual moderation techniques. “We don’t comment on individual customers but as announced, we’ve begun an extensive review of our advertising policies and have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear,” Google said in a new statement given to The Verge today. “We’re also raising the bar for our ads policies to further safeguard our advertisers’ brands.”