Google promises tougher stance on hateful content amid advertising row

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Google has promised a "tougher stance" on hateful content as it announced changes to its advertising policy following an outcry and boycotts from advertisers over their content appearing alongside extreme material.

Marks & Spencer, the BBC and the UK Government were among the organisations to suspend their advertising on Google-owned YouTube after it emerged ads had in some cases appeared on videos posted to the site by extremist groups. 

The technology giant apologised and insisted it would review its advertising policies and systems, which the firm's chief business officer Philipp Schindler has now said is already triggering changes.

"Starting today, we're taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content," he said. 

"This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.

"We'll also tighten safeguards to ensure that ads show up only against legitimate creators in our YouTube Partner Program - as opposed to those who impersonate other channels or violate our community guidelines."

The internet giant was criticised by the Home Affairs Select Committee for not doing enough to combat the spread of hate-filled videos on the site, with committee chairwoman and Labour MP Yvette Cooper telling the firm it can afford to do "far more, far faster" to battle such content.

Mr Schindler said Google would also make its advertising system "safer" for brands by giving them more control.

"We're changing the default settings for ads so that they show on content that meets a higher level of brand safety and excludes potentially objectionable content that advertisers may prefer not to advertise against.

"In addition, we'll introduce new controls to make it easier for brands to exclude higher risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear."

Google also promised to offer more "transparency and visibility" on where adverts appear and Mr Schindler said the company will be employing "significant numbers of people and developing new tools powered by our latest advancements in AI and machine learning to increase our 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," he said.

"In addition, we'll soon be able to resolve these cases in less than a few hours.

"In the end, there's nothing more important to Google than the trust we've built amongst our users, advertisers, creators and publishers.

"Brand safety is an ongoing commitment for us, and we'll continue to listen to your feedback."