Google boss apologises as M&S suspends ads


The European boss of Google has apologised for online adverts appearing next to extremist material after M&S became the latest big company to pull ads from the internet giant.

Matt Brittin, head of the company for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “We are sorry to anybody that’s been affected.”

He made the comments at an industry conference after a number of well-known UK brands suspended advertising over concerns centred on content appearing on Google’s YouTube platform.

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

The Government has already pulled ads and global advertising giant Havas, which buys ad space for a number of big companies, suspended advertising last week.

Other big names to take similar action include McDonald’s UK, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, Audi UK, and L’Oreal in the UK and Ireland, plus high street banks Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Lloyds.

Meanwhile some businesses, including Barclays, are considering what to do – though Barclays does not currently have any advertising on YouTube or Google.

Sky, the owner of Sky News, 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.”

Mr Brittin said Google already spent millions of dollars and employed thousands of people to try ensure “bad advertising doesn’t get through” and that this worked well “in the vast majority of cases”.

But he acknowledged it could improve and said a review which had been going on “for some time” was being accelerated.

He said Google was looking at better defining hate speech and inflammatory content, simplifying controls available to advertisers, and going further and faster in its efforts to remove “bad content” – in the context of 400 hours of content being uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Last week, media-buying agency GroupM, part of the world’s largest ad agency WPP, told Google to apologise to customers and advertisers who saw inappropriate content on YouTube.

It has also written to clients explaining the potential risks to their brands and asking them how they want to respond.

MPs recently said Google was “still profiting from hatred” after it failed to remove videos from groups allegedly linked to terrorism.

Google was summoned to appear in front of Cabinet Office ministers on Friday.

Sky News understands that the company apologised to senior civil servants representing the Government and pledged a review of their advertising systems.

Google was asked to return for another meeting this week to set out the action they plan to take.

Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has said that Google’s failure to remove the hate videos by was “frankly astonishing”

Last week the committee summoned bosses from Google, Facebook and Twitter, to question them about the action the web giants were taking to remove hate speech from their platforms.