It’s been a rough couple of months for YouTube and its parent company is finally looking into ways to fix the issue of offensive videos that appear on its website.
Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, penned a letter to advertisers on the company’s blog in which he addressed concerns from advertisers who were uneasy that their ads would appear alongside questionable and offensive content. At the same time, he acknowledged changes must come to the platform. Schindler said while the company was dedicated to ensuring its advertisers felt comfortable placing ads on the site, the content YouTube was curating for its audience of more than 800 million unique monthly viewers needed to change. Schindler also said those changes would extend to the ads themselves.
“Finally, we won’t stop at taking down ads,” Schindler wrote. “The YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform — not just what content can be monetized.”
Schindler’s statement was partnered with an apology about a “number of cases” where advertisers’ content appeared beside videos that contained offensive themes and derogatory language.
“Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values,” Schindler wrote. “For this, we deeply apologize.”
Schindler never explicitly states which channels advertisers have complained about, but in Europe, O2, McDonald’s, the BBC, L’Oréal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, the Guardian, Audi, Channel 4, Havas’ British and Marks and Spencer have threatened to stop advertising with YouTube after The Guardian pulled its own ads due to appearances on white nationalist channels. Other companies, like Nissan, have been vocal about not working with PewDiePie after the controversy surrounding a few anti-Semitic videos came to light. Although Nissan didn’t pull its ads, it distanced itself from the creator, who has more than 55 million subscribers.
YouTube has been in hot water for quite some time following the the increase of far-right, racist and sexist channels growing in popularity over the past few years. Other channels, like those that belong to white nationalist Richard Spencer, grew in prominence during the election. Both subscriber and viewership numbers increased for many right-wing personalities. Many prominent members of conservative, right-wing and even alt-right — a xenophobic, sexist and racist hate movement — affiliations are well aware of the rise in their supporters on YouTube.
“Twitter is a tiny echo chamber,” InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted. “I'm not sure the left understand the monumental ass-whupping being dished out to them on YouTube.”
Schindler acknowledged that YouTube needs to do better in this regard, adding that the company was going to take a much tougher stance on the types of videos users will see on the site.
“So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content,” Schindler wrote. “This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”
It’s unclear just how many channels will be stripped of outside advertising or when Google plans to implement the changes, but Polygon has reached out to the company for more information.