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M&S pulls online ads from Google over extremist content fears

BBC News logo BBC News 20/03/2017
M&S store: M&S said it was pausing its Google ads to ensure "brand safety".© Oli Scarff M&S said it was pausing its Google ads to ensure "brand safety".

Marks and Spencer has become the latest firm to pull its online advertising from Google's platforms over fears it is appearing next to extremist content.

It follows a UK government decision to remove its adverts from YouTube - which is owned by Google - after it emerged they had appeared alongside content from supporters of extremist groups.

RBS, Lloyds and HSBC also announced similar moves over the weekend.

Google has said it does not always "get it right" and will improve.

"In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetisation policies," Ronan Harris, the firm's UK managing director, said on Friday.

"We promptly remove those ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more."

It follows a recent investigation by the Times, which found adverts from a range of well-known firms and organisations had appeared alongside content from supporters of extremist groups on the YouTube video site.

An ad appearing alongside a video earns the poster about £6 for every 1,000 clicks it generates, meaning brands may have unwittingly contributed money to extremists.

Last week, ministers summoned Google for talks at the Cabinet Office after imposing a temporary restriction on the government's own adverts, including for military recruitment and blood donation campaigns.

Others such as McDonald's, L'Oreal and Audi, as well as the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4, have suspended their advertising on both Google's search engine and YouTube site.

Explaining its decision, an M&S spokesperson said: "In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through."

Royal Navy ship: Navy recruitment ads are among those believed to be affected© Other Navy recruitment ads are among those believed to be affected

Sky and Vodafone are also considering suspending their ads. A Sky spokesperson said: "It is clearly unacceptable for ads to be appearing alongside inappropriate content and we are talking with Google to understand what they are doing to stop this."

Last week, French advertising giant Havas said it had pulled all of its digital ad spending from Google and YouTube in the UK, adding that it was considering a global freeze.

Group M, which is part of the world's biggest advertising firm, WPP, said it was considering whether to follow suit.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, said: "We have always said Google, Facebook and others are media companies and have the same responsibilities as any other media company.

"They cannot masquerade as technology companies, particularly when they place adverts."

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