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YouTube Reevaluating Hate-Speech Guidelines as Google Takes Steps to Respond to Ad Complaints

YouTube is taking “a hard look” at its existing community guidelines governing what kinds of content are allowed on the platform — not just what content it deems acceptable for serving ads against.

That’s according to Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, who on Tuesday outlined a series of steps the internet giant is taking in response to an uproar in the U.K. after advertisers and agencies discovered that some of their ads ran against YouTube videos from white supremacists and other hate-mongers. As a result, several British marketers and even the U.K. government have pulled business from Google and YouTube.

“We know advertisers don’t want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values,” Schindler wrote in the blog post. “So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content.”

YouTube’s community guidelines already broadly forbid users from posting hate speech, which it defines as content “that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity,” or whose primary purpose is “inciting hatred” on the basis of those attributes. Now, according to Schindler, the YouTube team is considering being even more aggressive in blocking offensive material from being hosted on the site.

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Google’s attempt at damage control on the issue comes after U.K. advertisers have responded with outrage after their brand messages appeared with objectionable content. Last week the Guardian reported that it had discovered some of its ads on YouTube had been placed with such content as videos by American white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and a hate preacher banned in the U.K. “Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologize,” Schindler wrote.

According to Schindler, Google’s stepped-up measures will run across three fronts: updating its ad policies, better enforcement of those policies, and new controls for advertisers.

On the policies front, Google will be removing ads “more effectively” from content that attacks or harasses people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. That change also “will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites,” according to Schindler. Google also will “tighten safeguards” to ensure ads show up only against legitimate creators in the YouTube Partner Program, as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate community guidelines.

Google also is vowing to improve controls for advertisers to manage where their ads appear across YouTube and Google’s ad networks. That’s set to include changing default settings for ads so that they show only on content that meets a higher level of brand safety and excludes potentially objectionable content. In addition, Google said, it will roll out new account-level controls to make it easier for advertisers to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for Video and Google Display Network campaigns.

“We’ll offer advertisers and agencies more transparency and visibility on where their ads are running, and in the coming months we’ll expand availability of video-level reporting to all advertisers,” Schindler wrote.

Google plans to hire “significant numbers” of people to tackle the job, he said, as well as develop new tools to increase its capacity to review questionable content for advertising. “In cases where advertisers find their ads were served where they shouldn’t have been, we plan to offer a new escalation path to make it easier for them to raise issues,” Schindler wrote, with the company aiming to soon be able to resolve such cases “in less than a few hours.”

At the same time it’s moving to make sure advertisers don’t get any unexpected surprises about where their ads show up, Google will “act carefully, preserving the value we currently provide to advertisers, publishers and creators of all sizes,” Schindler added.

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