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Google unveils tools to prevent ads alongside undesirable content

A Google empire built on search has shifted attention to high-speed Internet networks, 360-degree video broadcasting and "other bets"
Damien Meyer (AFP/File)
A boycott by brand-conscious firms could cause enormous damage to the internet-giant's revenue stream

Google on Tuesday announced it was rolling out a new tool that will allow advertisers greater control over where their content appears, after a number of companies withdrew ads after they were shown alongside extremist content.

"In the coming days and months, we're introducing new tools for advertisers to more easily and consistently manage where their ads appear across YouTube and the web," Google's chief business officer Philipp Schindler said in a post on the internet giant's blog.

"We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn't align with their values. So starting today, we're taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content."

The announcement came following a senior Google executive's apology after the British government and a handful of top firms including Marks and Spencer and HSBC Bank pulled their adverts after they appeared alongside extremist content on its internet platforms.

Ethan Miller (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)

Schindler said Google acknowledged that companies have brand guidelines which dictate where and when they want their ads to appear, and that it wants to give them more control to do that.

The British government on Monday suspended its YouTube advertising, saying "it is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content -- and that message was conveyed very clearly to Google."

A Marks and Spencer spokesman said: "In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through."

Schindler said Google will tighten safeguards to ensure that ads appear only alongside legitimate creators on its video-sharing site YouTube, and that the company "is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform."

Advertising makes up the overwhelming majority of Google's revenue, and a boycott by brand-conscious firms could cause enormous financial damage to the internet-giant.

Josh Edelson (AFP/File)

Unaudited figures from Google's parent company Alphabet indicated that advertising accounted for nearly 86 percent of the company's $26.1 billion in revenues in the final quarter of last year.

The Times reported last week that BBC programs were promoted alongside videos posted by American white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke as well as videos by Wagdi Ghoneim, an Islamist preacher banned from the UK for inciting hatred. 

The newspaper said an analysis it conducted found more than 200 anti-Semitic videos, and that Google failed to remove six of them within the 24-hour period mandated by the EU when it anonymously signaled their presence.

Schindler pledged Google would hire significant numbers of people and harness its latest developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to review questionable content for advertising. 

He added the firm would be able to resolve cases of advertising appearing alongside inappropriate content "in less than a few hours".

(Staff with AFP)

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