Google apologises for YouTube extremist ad controversy, and vows to change ways

The web giant has said that it would give clients more control over where their advertisements appear on YouTube.

Havas, whose advertising clients across the United Kingdom includes the Royal Mail, which is the British government's and BBC TV, Hyundai and Domino's Pizza, said it would take into consideration a ban worldwide on the YouTube platform following an admission by Google that it could not guarantee ads would not be displayed next to content it called unpalatable.

A report by the Times uncovered the issue with Google's advertising tool that placed United Kingdom government and brand ads on extremist YouTube videos and websites.

"While Google has apologized for the incidents, and while the scale of the underlying problem may be relatively small in absolute terms, for large marketers, any one instance of an inappropriate brand placement may be enough to seriously harm a brand's business value", Pivotal's Brian Wieser wrote in a report.

Last week, Google had talks with ministers at the Cabinet Office after they imposed a temporary restriction on the government's own adverts.

Google already provides controls that allow advertisers to choose where their ads go, said Matt Brittin, Google's president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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"Sometimes, ads appear where they should not.", admits a spokesperson. A report from Sky News states that the brands have done it out of concern for their brand safety.

Channel 4, BBC, Boots and Smart Energy GB ads appeared on videos by preacher Wagdi Ghoneim, who allegedy called Osama Bin Laden a "martyr hero majahid, while videos from former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard David Duke received money from Transport for London, HSBC, Armani and the Financial Conduct Authority's marketing material".

"Google assured us they would fix this very quickly and so we've chosen to hold them accountable rather than pull our allocations", he said. Even YouTube's biggest star PewDiePie, Felix Kjellberg, was tarnished after joking about anti-Semitism. Sky plc, Barclays plc, Vodafone and Waitrose are also reportedly considering doing the same.

However, it's not always easy to understand where the line is between free speech and censorship.

This development could significantly affect Google's dominance of online ads as more companies are on the verge of taking similar step to express their displeasure.