YouTube is once again losing advertisers after ads were placed beside questionable content. After a report showed ads were popping up with certain videos containing children — many of them innocent but filled with inappropriate comments — several brands including Mondelez, Lidl, Mars, and others stopped advertising on the video platform. The latest occurrence is the second YouTube boycott in less than a year arising from the placement of ads with inappropriate content.
According to Reuters, ads were being displayed on videos that contained “comments from hundreds of pedophiles.” Many of the videos, according to Reuters, looked like they were uploaded by the kids themselves but attracted inappropriate comments due to the children’s clothing, for example, a pre-teen girl shown in a nightgown. The original paper suggested that those videos were easily searchable on YouTube.
In response to the withdrawal of advertising, YouTube said that the content should not have any ads running with it and that the company is “working urgently to fix this.”
YouTube has been making several updates over the last year to strengthen the platform’s policies after a similar advertising snafu arose last year when brands realized their ads were popping up in conjunction with extremist content. Now, YouTube excludes a number of different types of videos from being eligible for advertising dollars, including videos containing offensive language, violence, sexual content, discrimination, and hateful content.
The same week the report was released, YouTube said that it was working to strengthen the platform’s system for blocking inappropriate comments on videos containing minors. In videos that attract those types of content, YouTube says they will turn off the option to comment entirely, adding to existing policies on using algorithms and human flaggers to remove inappropriate comments and reporting illegal behavior to law enforcement. The announcement was part of a series of several changes designed to protect children using YouTube.
The videos in question could have missed YouTube’s flagging system because in some cases, the comments and not the actual video itself was the reason the content is inappropriate. Others could have slipped through the software algorithms without coming up for a human review.
Several of the advertisers that left the platform said they would only return once YouTube added more safeguards against the issue happening again. If the last advertiser response when 250+ companies stopped advertising on the platform in March is any indication, the latest issue will likely mean users will see more safeguards and more limitations on which videos can and cannot earn advertising revenue.
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