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Google apologises to clients over extremist content after M&S becomes latest brand to pull ads

Google plans to make changes to its technology in coming weeks to prevent extremist videos from appearing alongside advertising
Google is making changes to its ad policies and technology

Google’s European chief has apologised to its clients after several brands pulled advertising from YouTube over extremist content.

Matt Brittin, the head of Google’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division, said today the group has reached out to companies affected by the placement of advertising next to videos that advocate terrorism.  

“I want to start by saying sorry,” Brittan said at the Advertising Week Europe event in London.

“When anything like this happens we take responsibility for it.”

His remarks come a day after Marks and Spencer Group Plc (M&S) (LON:MKS) said it plans to halt advertising on Google and YouTube after its marketing was placed alongside extremist content.

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

M&S joins a string of companies that have suspended adverts, including the BBC, HSBCLloyds Banking Group, L’Oreal, Audi and international media agency Havas. Sky plc, Barclays plc, Vodafone and Waitrose are also reportedly considering doing the same.

YouTube, one of Google’s subsidiaries, pays £6.15 of advertising revenue to those who post videos, which means companies have been inadvertently funding terror groups.

The UK government has paused spending on YouTube until the problem is resolved. The funding is part of a £60mln annual budget for digital advertising,

Brittin said the issue of ads appearing alongside radical videos on YouTube was affecting “pennies, not pounds” of Google’s spend but that it was an “important issue” that needs to be addressed.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL), currently relies on users to flag up such videos.

The group has promised to make changes to its technology in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear.

Google is reviewing its ad policies and will make changes to how it controls and enforces appropriate advertising on its platforms.

“We have a review under way on how we can improve. We are accelerating that review,” Brittan said.

Further details on Google’s plans to fix the problem are expected to be unveiled later this week.

-- Adds apology from Google EMEA chief ---

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