MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook has taken the lion’s share of scrutiny from Congress and the media for its data-handling practices that allow savvy marketers and political agents to target specific audiences, but it’s far from alone.
YouTube, Google and Twitter also have giant platforms awash in more videos, posts and pages than any set of human eyes could ever check. Their methods of serving ads against this sea of content may come under the microscope next.
Advertising and privacy experts say a backlash is inevitable against a “Wild West” internet that has escaped scrutiny before. There continues to be a steady barrage of new examples where unsuspecting advertisers had their brands associated with extremist content on major platforms.
In the latest discovery, CNN reported that it found more than 300 retail brands, government agencies and technology companies had their ads run on YouTube channels that promoted white nationalists, Nazis, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda.
Child advocates have also raised alarms about the ease with which smartphone-equipped children are exposed to inappropriate videos and deceptive advertising.
“I absolutely think that Google is next and long overdue,” said Josh Golin, director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google-owned YouTube’s advertising and data-collection practices earlier this month.
YouTube has repeatedly outlined the ways it attempts to flag and delete hateful, violent, sexually explicit or harmful videos, but its screening efforts have often missed the mark.
It also allows advertisers to avoid running ads on sensitive content — like news or politics — that don’t violate YouTube guidelines but don’t fit with a company’s brand. Those methods appear to have failed.
“YouTube has once again failed to correctly filter channels out of our marketing buys,” said a statement Friday from 20th Century Fox Film, which learned that its ads were running on videos posted by a self-described Nazi. YouTube has since deleted the offending channel, but the Hollywood studio says it has unanswered questions about how it happened in the first place.
“All of our filters were in place in order to ensure that this did not happen,” Fox said, adding it has asked for a refund of any money shared with the “abhorrent channel.”
YouTube said Friday that it has made “significant changes to how we approach monetization,” citing “stricter policies, better controls and greater transparency.” It noted it allows advertisers to exclude certain channels from ads. It also removes ads …read more