Govt meets with Google over 'totally unacceptable' YouTube issues

Google bosses have apologised and promised improvements after being hauled into the Cabinet Office following a Times investigation that found government campaigns had appeared alongside extremist videos on YouTube.

YouTube: pledges to carry out a review of the company's advertising systems
YouTube: pledges to carry out a review of the company's advertising systems

Senior executives at the tech giant, which owns the video service, were told the government expected to see swift improvements in advertising policies during the meeting, PRWeek understands.

The Times investigation revealed that campaigns for brands, including The Cabinet Office, Transport for London and L'Oréal, had appeared on YouTube alongside videos which included "rape apologists, anti-Semites and banned hate preachers".

In the meeting, Google executives apologised to senior civil servants and pledged to carry out a review of the company's advertising systems.

The government spends millions of pounds on YouTube advertising, but will not spend any further money until it has been given assurances from the company that taxpayer-funded content will be handled appropriately.

Google was told that procedures would need to be put in place to ensure every penny of public money was spent properly on its sites.

A government spokesperson said: "It is totally unacceptable that taxpayer-funded advertising has appeared next to inappropriate internet content – and that message was conveyed very clearly to Google.

"The Cabinet Office has told Google it expects to see a plan and a timetable for work to improve protection of government adverts to ensure this doesn’t happen again. YouTube advertising remains on hold while that work is carried out."

Google executives are expected to return to the Cabinet Office this week for a follow-up meeting to explain what procedures they have put in place to strengthen advertising policies.

Several organisations including John Lewis, Body Shop and the government itself have come under scrutiny from online activist group Stop Funding Hate in recent weeks for their ad spend in certain media outlets.

This story first appeared in PR Week.

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