Ads Shown Before Youtube’s ISIS Videos

While advertisers are generally happy to have as many people as possible see the promotions for their products, there are certain groups that even the most mainstreams brands don’t want to be affiliated with. Take ISIS for example.

feel bern2It recently caught media attention that some major American companies were unaware that their ads were playing in open spots before some of ISIS’s YouTube videos. Proctor & Gamble, Toyota and Anheuser-Busch were among a list of companies with pre-roll ads running before videos associated with the militant Islamic group known as ISIS or ISIL, which has taken over large tracts of land in Iraq and Syria.

Google-owned YouTube has been quick to remove the ads from the videos as well as the videos themselves as a result of policy violations, but some of the ads were playing in pre-roll slots for days after the news stories rolled and likely weeks before.

A spokesperson for YouTube recently released the following statement: “YouTube has clear policies prohibiting content intended to incite violence, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.”

According to Google, the ads that precede YouTube videos are often picked at random my an algorithm, meaning that neither YouTube nor the advertiser can predict which ads are playing which videos.

“Our ads should not have appeared and we’re working with YouTube to understand how it happened and to avoid it happening again,” Proctor & Gamble said in a statement to a major news source. Other companies that found their ads before ISIS videos didn’t immediately release statements but were satisfied by the removal of their ads by Google.

isis3YouTube stated that over 300 hours of footage are uploaded to its site every minute and that ISIS-related videos tend to be posted from a variety of accounts. It has stated that it relies heavily on its users to flag content that violates the community guidelines put out by the site. It also has put forward a “promotes terrorism” flag as an option underneath every video and reviews all flagged content. Finally, YouTube terminates accounts that it believes are created by agents of foreign terrorist organizations, including but not limited to those potentially created by ISIS.

YouTube’s policy states that is does not serve ads before videos that don’t fall into the category of “advertiser-friendly” content, but whether that assertion holds true in the light of day remains in question.

In light of the recent and horrifying attack in Orlando, many are calling for tech companies to do more in the fight against terror, especially tech firms like Facebook, Twitter and Google that provide services often used by terrorists for recruitment and the dispersing of radical ideals. Whether Google will actually employ more people to aid in removing terrorist content from YouTube remains to be seen, but volunteer flagging work is clearly insufficient in terms of stopping terrorist content from being published online.

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