Most companies are happy to see their ads wind up in front of wildly popular and widely watched YouTube videos. After all, that’s kind of the point of video advertising. However, there’s an exception to every rule and several major corporations are less than pleased to see their pre-roll ads showing up in front of videos posted by the militant terrorist group ISIS. Major corporations like Procter and Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, and Toyota have all been forced to make apologies after ads for their products started rolling in front of ISIS recruiting videos which have been cropping up ever more frequently on the site in recent months.
As we reported last month, YouTube has been working overtime to check the spread of ISIS propaganda on the platform. The company has staffed up with more Arabaic-speaking interpreters to help sift through the millions of hours of footage being uploaded every day, but it’s still an uphill battle. YouTube’s terms of service prohibit the type of material being uploaded by ISIS and its sympathizers on the grounds that it promotes terrorism and violence; however, the task of policing every upload to the world’s largest video site is simply too great to contemplate. With millions of hours of footage and hundreds of copies of the same video uploaded daily, YouTube must rely on users to flag and report questionable videos. That means that some videos aren’t detected until they’ve already received a significant number of views and in some cases become eligible for monetization.
YouTube has also been working hard over the last year to convince advertisers of its value and to snatch ever more ad dollars away from television. YouTube offers advertisers the chance to place their ads against some of the most popular and compelling content in the world today, but in most cases, advertisers don’t control which specific videos their ads appear on. Instead the ads are placed by an algorithm on videos which YouTube deems “Advertiser Friendly Content.” While the definition of advertiser friendly is a loose one, it specifically rules out videos containing “violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism.” For now, major advertisers are left making apologies while YouTube works to prevent a similar mix up from happening again.
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