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'Tiny' number of ads not safe, says Google

News, 04 April 2017
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MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA: As part of its ongoing efforts to reassure advertisers about the placement of ads on YouTube, a Google executive has stressed that very few ads ever run alongside extremist content.

"It has always been a small problem," according to Philipp Schindler, Google's chief business officer, who told Recode that there were only ever "very, very, very small numbers" of ads running against videos that weren't safe for brands.

"I don't want to take away from the importance of the problem, and that we need to get it right," he said, "but the numbers are tiny, tiny."

His comments come amid a developing crisis first sparked by revelations in The Times and fuelled by the decisions of a number of UK public bodies, media owners and brands to pull ads from YouTube over concerns these were appearing alongside "inappropriate" content.

But many advertisers never pulled out, a Google representative subsequently informed Recode, adding that "many have decided to come back based on the actions we've taken over the past week".

Those actions include upgraded software that can track down five times more videos that the platform wants to keep clear from advertisers and faster response time when someone flags an inappropriate video.

Schindler claimed that the issue was not a new one, but rather one that had become public. "We've had that problem, at scale, for a long time," he said. "The problem comes from the fact that somebody is aggressively putting it onto the front page.

As well as the unwelcome attention, he argued that "the problem has become a bit more multifaceted" as it becomes less easy to block content on the basis of "clear, specific words, that are very clearly triggering something" – the use of the "N word" being a classic example.

"If you would just block [videos] when people refer to the black community with [the ] N word, you would take out a pretty significant percentage of all rap videos," he observed. "You would probably take out a lot of pro-black activist groups. But obviously you want to take it out when somebody says 'we hate all N words'.

"The problem is now, the machines have to start understanding context in a much different way," he added.

Meanwhile, Google is continuing to "carefully evaluate" the standards for the videos it allows to appear on YouTube.

Data sourced from Recode; additional content by WARC staff

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