Google is Facing an Epic Backlash Over the Amount of Hate Speech on YouTube

YouTube are having a time of it at the moment. Mere days after being accused of having homophobic censorship policies, their parent company is being boycotted, and in a big way. It's one thing when you're the subject of a public boycott, but what about when it's Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Enterprise, AT&T and GlaxoSmithKline?

All five of these major firms and several others have pulled their advertising from YouTube after a report by The Times revealed that, alongside several other companies, their ads had appeared in videos containing extremist content and hate speech. One way of looking at this is that, for a while, these companies were profiting from terrorism.

Naturally, they weren't happy about this, and now companies are pulling their ads from not only YouTube, but Google as a whole. To quell the storm, Google have apologised, and updated brand tools so that advertisers have more control over where their ads appear, but neither action seems to have done much to stem the ire.

This is a huge hit for Google, as Verizon and AT&T are 2 of the most prominent advertisers in the US, and since the report originally came from a UK paper, more and more British-based companies are pulling out. This is causing a domino effect of epic proportions which could seriously harm Google's ad revenue. I can only imagine what the scene must look like at their California headquarters at the moment. People are probably swearing a bit more than they usually do.

Pretty much every company has released a statement explaining they're all more or less the same, simply stating that the company doesn't want to be in any way affiliated with that kind of content, and that they'll only start advertising on YouTube again once the issue has been resolved.

This is actually a big ask. If YouTube are struggling to find and flag extremist and hateful content, it's not going to be any easier to make sure that advertising doesn't appear on it. The best approach will probably be to place heavier restrictions on where ads can appear in general, but this could have the adverse effect of limiting the reach of advertising to the point where other companies get annoyed with them. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Given the options though, tightening restrictions on which videos can host ads is probably the better bet. If they make their content restrictions too severe, they'll run into the same issue Facebook has been tangling with - banning perfectly acceptable content because the algorithms have flagged something by accident. YouTube is about the publishers, first and foremost, and it's more important to keep them happy than the advertisers, but make no mistake, YouTube will probably never be the same again after this.

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