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March 20, 2017

Google says sorry to advertisers for extremist YouTube content

Google boss issued public apology at Advertising Week Europe.

By Ellie Burns

Google’s European operations chief has admitted that the tech giant ‘needs to get better’ at policing online videos in a public apology made at Advertising Week Europe.

Speaking at the conference in London, Matt Brittin, Google’s president of EMEA business and operations, said: “I want to start by saying sorry. We apologise. When anything like this happens we take responsibility for it.”

The EMEA boss dodged repeated questions over how Google would handle the ever growing scandal, one which has grabbed the public’s attention with high-profile brands such as Marks and Spencer pulling their contracts with Google.

READ MORE: Tim Berners-Lee calls on Facebook, Google to fight fake news

The scandal first came to the public’s attention following an investigation by The Times which revealed that YouTube ads sponsored by the UK government and big brands like Sainsbury’s were displayed next to inappropriate and extremist content.

Mr Brittin acknowledged that some big name clients were ‘concerned’, but that Google would be making changes to ad policies.

“We have a review under way on how we can improve. it’s been underway for some time and last week we went public to explain what we’re doing. And we’re accelerating that review,” said Mr Brittin.

The tech giant pledged to revise how it controls and enforces appropriate advertising, as well as having more control over where ads are placed. The promises also extended to how questionable content is reviewed, with Google currently only reviewing content that has been flagged as inappropriate by users. However, Google blames the huge number of YouTube videos uploaded as to why it can not police content proactively.

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Mr Brittin was speaking as part of a session with Unilever CMO Keith Weed on ‘Building Brands in an Attention Economy’, Matt apologised to anyone affected and pledged to take action to tackle this issue.

“We want to make this a safe space for you to work as brand builders, and we welcome the chance to work with the industry,” said Mr Brittin.

Although admitting that Google needed to ‘get better’ at dealing with inappropriate content, Mr Brittin did say that Google’s tools worked ‘in the majority of situations’. However, although Mr Brttin may be confident in his company’s tools, the same cannot be said for its customers.

The BBC, Lloyds, L’Oreal, Audi, Marks & Spencer and Havas are all said to have pulled their adverts following the Times investigation.

Google is expected to release further details about its ad changes later this week.

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