M&S pulls online ads from Google over extremist content fears – BBC News

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M&S said it was pausing its Google ads to ensure “brand safety”

Marks and Spencer has become the latest firm to pull its online advertising from Google’s platforms over fears it is appearing next to extremist content.

It follows a UK government decision to remove its adverts from YouTube – which is owned by Google – after it emerged they had appeared alongside content from supporters of extremist groups.

RBS, Lloyds and HSBC also announced similar moves over the weekend.

Google said it was “sorry and would take responsibility for the issues”.

Speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference, Matthew Brittin, the firm’s European head, said: “I would like to apologise to our partners and advertisers who might have been affected by their ads appearing on controversial content.

“We take our responsibilities to these industry issues very seriously.”

It follows a recent investigation by the Times, which found adverts from a range of well-known firms and organisations had appeared alongside content from supporters of extremist groups on the YouTube video site.

An ad appearing alongside a video earns the poster about £6 for every 1,000 clicks it generates, meaning brands may have unwittingly contributed money to extremists.

The Times claimed that rape apologists, anti-Semites and hate preachers were among those receiving payouts.

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Navy recruitment ads are among those believed to be affected

Last week, ministers summoned Google for talks at the Cabinet Office after imposing a temporary restriction on the government’s own adverts, including for military recruitment and blood donation campaigns.

Others such as McDonald’s, L’Oreal and Audi, as well as the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4, have suspended their advertising on both Google’s search engine and YouTube site.

‘Clearly unacceptable’

Explaining its decision, an M&S spokesperson said: “In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through.”

Sky and Vodafone are also considering suspending their ads. A Sky spokesperson said: “It is clearly unacceptable for ads to be appearing alongside inappropriate content and we are talking with Google to understand what they are doing to stop this.”

Mark Mulligan, a media and technology consultant at Midia, said the complaints “were not new” and showed the internet was “still in its adolescence”.

“When the internet was founded, it was all about doing away with the gatekeeper. But now we’re facing fake news and inappropriate content and that clashes with business models like Google’s which are built on selling advertising.”

He said Google was likely to weather the storm, but that such incidents would weaken its dominance of the online advertising market.

“Every incident like this gives Facebook an opportunity to steal a march on Google,” he said.

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