Walmart and Starbucks boycott Google over extreme content

by Jonathan Rimmer

Starbucks, Walmart and PepsiCo are among the latest companies to suspend advertising on YouTube due to their marketing campaigns appearing alongside videos with racist content.

The companies pulled their adverts after the Wall Street Journal found earlier this week that their brands had been placed alongside racist content due to Google’s automated programs.

Google, who acquired YouTube in 2006, generally rely on these programs to place adverts to deal with the up to 400 hours of video uploaded to the channel every minute.

Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, wrote in a blogpost last week that the company plan to overhaul their advertising policies.

He said: “Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologise.

“We’ll be hiring significant numbers of people and developing new tools powered by our latest advancements in AI and machine learning to increase our capacity to review questionable content for advertising.”

However, companies are continuing to defect despite Google’s attempts to apologise and assure brands.

Companies like Walmart have even announced their intention to cease buying adverts that Google places on millions of third party websites.

They said in a statement: “The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values.”

The retail corporation follow a host of other organisations who have pulled ad content, including McDonalds, Marks & Spencer, the BBC, Channel 4, RBS and the UK government.

Google’s lost advertisers represent a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, but Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, only reported a 3% drop in shares last week.

In total, YouTube only accounts for $5.6 billion dollars, nearly 8%, of Alphabet’s total revenue.

Dr Douglas Chalmers, senior lecturer in Media and Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “If Google can’t work out a safe way to get advertisers on board due to hosting racist content then that’s tough for them.

“Behemoths like Google aren’t really interested in ethics or morals – they’re interested in making the extra buck.

“I think these firms are pulling out due to public opinion and fearing for their reputation. The likes of Pepsi and Walmart are hardly lilywhite so it’s not a case of good firm v bad firm.”

Google have previously under fire for supporting extreme content, most notably during the US presidential election when many websites used Google to fund ‘fake news’ content.

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