Google is currently facing harsh criticism regarding the placement of ads on controversial content. Because of the ever-growing scope of the internet, Google’s current algorithms to “do no harm” are no longer sufficient, and advertisers are not happy. Companies like HSBC and L’Oréal are reducing spending with Google after discovering their ads being placed on websites or YouTube videos made by various terrorist groups. Google is quickly trying to resolve the issue and roll out new fixes that allow advertisers more control and visibility over where their ads appear. While it is understandable that Google is struggling to remain a neutral party within huge amounts of content on the internet, these are issues that need to be resolved quickly to keep advertisers satisfied. These companies rely on their advertisements to maintain their idealized marketing image—which typically does not include placement within controversial content.
Google has a complex algorithm that determines search results and advertising criteria. This task has gotten even more complicated, as they are now responsible for filtering through large amounts of content that sometimes requires human review. Thousands of new websites and nearly 600,000 hours of YouTube content are added each day. This is one of Google’s largest challenges, as they are beginning to realize that the algorithm cannot identify all controversial content within such large quantities. There are far ends of the internet that include edgy content going beyond pornography and pro-Nazi content, which means that Google is no longer able to quickly and easily determine what is harmful. Companies are not blaming large amounts of content or the producers of unethical content, but instead blaming Google for not having a better filter. This is a challenge that will only grow as the internet expands and more people around the world are gaining access.
Spending on digital ads has now surpassed television ad spending, which means that companies are heavily reliant on this form of advertising and expect flawless execution from Google. Many companies like Volkswagen have pulled their Youtube ads, as they await Google’s definitive solution. Brand safety is one of the most important priorities to these major corporations. Some are not willing to wait and try their luck, while Google attempts to find a viable solution. Google’s revenues have not yet been effected, but many investors have downgraded the stock recommendation due to the controversy. This reaction may seem like an over exaggeration because one would assume that most customers are not visiting pages with violent and unethical content. This is true to a certain extent, but advertisers worry that these pages will become more readily available through people sharing pages via social media. Sharing increases the likelihood of more people viewing the content, and thus the advertisements. This domino effect is a nightmare for the advertiser, and therefore Google is frantically working towards a solution.
As the internet grows and expands, companies like Google must face many new challenges that extend beyond data storage. Google will need to continuously work to reduce controversy in the future by increasing visibility and allowing advertisers to have more control.