YouTube faces advertiser exodus over hate speech fears

A growing list of major global brands are withdrawing their advertising spend on YouTube due to the fear of being associated with hate speech.

The Google-owned company has been rocked in recent weeks by the increased awareness of the racist hate speech that has become alarmingly common among some of its top stars. Gaming has been hard hit by controversies including the likes of PewDiePie and JonTron, although of course the problem of games pundits espousing extreme right wing views has been around for some time.

Now The Wall Street Journal reports that the likes of PepsiCo, Walmart, Dish, Starbucks, McDonalds and GM have all pulled their ads following the discovery that ads from brands such as Coca-Cola, Amazon and Microsoft are still appearing alongside videos that contain racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic sentiments.

The Financial Times adds that major advertising networks are now demanding discounts from YouTube, with Group M’s chief digital officer Rob Norman saying that Google has told advertisers that there are a range of actions they may take to give greater comfort and security” to customers.

Furthermore, the yanking of YouTube advertising is having a wider effect on Google’s entire ad network, with many companies defaulting back to just targeted search advertising as they no longer trust Google’s ad algorithms.

As the site points out, YouTube’s strength has always been the breadth of its content and the diversity offered by its millions of creators. However, the current political climate on both sides of the Atlantic has lead to an increase in hate speech that YouTube’s traditional structure is unable to cope with.

There’s no obvious solution, either, as YouTube’s scale makes human moderation virtually impossible. Regardless, US trade group The Association of National Advertisers has urged Google to take the necessary steps to guarantee the safety and reputations of our brands”, describing the current outpouring of extremist videos as a crisis”.

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