On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson joined the growing list of companies to boycott YouTube and other websites in the Google advertising network over concerns the tech giant isn’t doing enough to keep ads from appearing next to offensive content, the New York Times reports.
The company — one of the largest advertisers in the United States — announced plans to sever ties with Google on Wednesday, following in the footsteps of a handful of European companies that did the same last week. In addition, several other U.S. companies, including AT&T, car rental service Enterprise, and Verizon, have announced similar plans to protest Google sites.
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson, which owns Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Neutrogena (talk about a monopoly!) said: “[We have] decided to pause all YouTube digital advertising globally to ensure our product advertising does not appear on channels that promote offensive content. We take this matter very seriously and will continue to take every measure to ensure our brand advertising is consistent with our brand values.”
As the Times reports, paid advertisements are automatically placed on websites, often without a precursory check of that website’s content. Though Google does have some measures in place to prevent advertising from appearing beside “hateful, offensive, and derogatory content,” such as that promoting terrorism, a growing number of businesses feel Google isn’t doing enough to monitor where its ads appear. As such, they’re boycotting Google advertising until the tech giant develops more accurate security measures for advertisers.
The problem is difficult to control, since Google’s network extends to roughly two million websites, with thousands more added every day. In addition, more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube (which is owned by Google) on a daily basis. It currently flags content deemed pornographic, violent, and that which promotes illegal behavior, and pulls advertising from those pages. Brands also have the power to prohibit their advertisements from appearing next to specific content types (for example, content with profanity). Identifying and flagging all offensive material, however, has proven more difficult.
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Still, Google has pledged to do everything it can to ensure advertisements aren’t placed next to offensive, hateful, or otherwise dangerous material. In a statement, the company said: “We don’t comment on individual customers, but as announced, we’ve begun an extensive review of our advertising policies and have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear.”
Though pulling advertisements may not appear to be a particularly outspoken way of fighting against hate speech, the fact of the matter is, money is power — at least when it comes to businesses. As more companies join the boycott, Google stands to lose billions of dollars. It may not be as social media-friendly as, say, a politically charged ad campaign, but withholding money is the best way for these businesses to make a real change.
You can read more about Google’s newly-released plan to review content here.
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