No doubt we all had a chuckle when, last week, a Times report into advertising on extremist videos was accompanied by a screenshot of gun-toting jihadis on top of which was posted an advertising banner for… Guardian membership. It was a clip from a Britain First video. Unsurprisingly, the Guardian didn’t see the funny side and has subsequently pulled all of its advertising from YouTube, and its owner, Google. Apparently those who watch extremist videos are not welcome in the Guardian club.
The Guardian is not alone in withdrawing ads. Over the past few days, other companies and public institutions have been pulling advertising from Google, with banks HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) the latest to follow suit, citing fears that ‘some of [our] advertising budgets are being used to fund banned hate preachers, racists and terrorist organisations, including ISIS’.
In addition to the banks it has been reported that Havas, one of the ‘big six’ advertising agencies, has suspended advertising on Google for 240 of its clients. McDonald’s, L’Oréal and Audi have also pulled advertising from YouTube.
All these companies complain that their ads are popping up on extremist videos. A L’Oréal campaign for the Prince’s Trust featuring Dame Helen Mirren was found to pop up on the video sermon of hate preacher Steven Anderson. According to The Times, advertisers could be earning the video-posters $7.60 (about £6.15) for every 1,000 views that their advert attracts. Google would also take a cut.
But the possibility of helping extremists earn some extra money is not the only concern for those rushing to remove ads. When it was discovered that government-funded adverts for the BBC, the Royal Navy and Visit Scotland were popping up on videos by David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the government suspended all advertising on YouTube while awaiting assurances that its messages would be displayed in a ‘safe and appropriate way’. ‘Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content’, a government spokeswoman said.