Google Exec Apologizes for YouTube Ads Run Against Hate Speech, Terrorist Videos After U.K. Backlash

A senior Google executive on Monday apologized for ads that have run in YouTube content that espouses terrorism and other extremist views, vowing that the internet company will be taking new steps to improve controls advertisers have over where their ads appear on YouTube.

“I want to start by saying sorry to the brands affected by this. I take the issue very seriously and I apologize in the instances where that may have happened,” Matt Brittin, Google’s president of Europe, Middle East and Africa business and operations, said at the Advertising Week Europe conference Monday in London, according to the Guardian.

Brittin’s remarks come after a wave of U.K. advertisers have said they were pulling advertising from Google and YouTube over the issue.

British retailer Marks & Spencer on Monday said it would discontinue advertising with with the internet company, coming after several other marketers and agencies said they would do the same. According to reports, those include the U.K. government, O2, McDonald’s, the BBC, L’Oréal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, the Guardian, Audi, Channel 4 and Havas’ British unit.

Internet companies and social media networks have long faced issues over advertising placed against objectionable content. But it’s grown into an loud chorus of protests in the U.K. over the last few days, after the Guardian reported that it had discovered some of its ads on YouTube had appeared with such content as videos by American white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; a hate preacher banned in the U.K.; and “a controversial Islamist preacher.”

In his remarks Monday, Brittin said Google would review its policies for identifying inappropriate content and would strive to improve tools for advertisers to control how their ads are placed on YouTube. “We’ve made a public commitment to doing better and are making improvements in three areas: raising the bar for our ads policies; simplifying advertiser controls and adding safer defaults; and increasing investment in enforcement to act faster,” he said at the conference.

But he also suggested some advertisers may be interested in running ads alongside controversial content, the Wall Street Journal reported. “We want to be thoughtful,” Brittin said.

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