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Google apologizes for ads alongside extremist content

March 20, 2017

A top Google executive has said the company is sorry to the UK government and retailers. Marks and Spencer and McDonalds are just a few of the organizations to pull their advertisements from YouTube.

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Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Spata

Google issued an apology on Monday after it transpired that advertisements for major UK companies and the government had been shown before offensive content on YouTube. Banks like HSBC and RBS, as well as retailer Marks and Spencer announced they were pulling their ads from the site in response.

"I would like to apologize to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content," said Matt Brittin, head of Google's Europe, Middle East and Africa division.

The companies argued that their messages were being played before content that was filled with anti-Semitic and homophobic views.  The British government has similarly expressed its dismay that its own advertisements have appeared on "inappropriate and hate-filled sites," after they signed a deal with Google.

"It is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content - and that message was conveyed very clearly to Google," a government spokesman said on Monday.

He added that the cabinet expects "a timetable for work to improve protection of government adverts," and in the meantime "YouTube advertizing remains on hold."

Similar statements were made by Marks and Spencer and HSBC, prompting other giants like the BBC, the Guardian newspaper and McDonalds UK to also temporarily suspend their deals with YouTube.  

Matt Brittin promised that Google was already hard at work "raising the bar for our ads policies, simplifying advertiser controls and adding safer defaults."

es/kms (AFP, Reuters)