By Marcus Honesta.
JIHAD – dʒɪˈhɑːd (Noun)
ISLAM – 1. a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam.
“he declared a jihad against the infidels”
Security is obliviously not a top priority for YouTube’s owner Google. It has recently been revealed that some of the world’s biggest brands are unwittingly funding Islamic extremists, white supremacists and pornographers by advertising on their websites.
When researching Google’s rules on content they claim:
“We value diversity and respect for others, and we strive to avoid offending users, so we don’t allow ads or destinations that display shocking content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination or violence.
Examples of inappropriate or offensive content: bullying or intimidation of an individual or group, racial discrimination, hate group paraphernalia, graphic crime scene or accident images, cruelty to animals, murder, self-harm, extortion or blackmail, sale or trade of endangered species, ads using profane language”.
However in truth it is clear that this just hyperbole as is evidenced below.
Sandals Resorts, the luxury holiday operator, is advertised next to a video promoting al-Shabaab, the East African jihadist group affiliated to al- Qaeda. A Sandals spokeswoman said: “ that it made every effort to stop its adverts appearing next to inappropriate content. It said: “that YouTube had “not properly categorised the video as sensitive”.
Advertisements for some of the biggest Advertisers in the world are disregardfully carrying hate messages for supporters of terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Combat 18, a violent pro-Nazi faction. Hundreds of large companies, universities and charities, including Mercedes-Benz, Waitrose and Marie Curie, unwittingly are seen to support these entities. This is clearly and horrific volition of their corporate trust, values and brand integrity, as their ads have appeared on hate sites and YouTube videos.
The practice is likely to generate tens of thousands of dollars a month for the extremists. An advert appearing alongside a YouTube video, for example, typically earns whoever posts the video $7.60 for every 1,000 views. Some of the most popular extremist videos have more than one million hits.
Big advertising agencies, which typically place commercials on behalf of clients, have been accused of pushing brands into online advertising to boost their own profits.
Companies are concerned that they are paying huge mark-ups for digital promotion and receiving “shameful advertising” in return. Leaked documents from one “top-six” agency show that about 40 per cent of its advert-buying income in 2016 came from hidden kickbacks as well as from “other income”. One source said this mainly derived from mark-ups applied to digital commercials.
Analysis by a leading British Newspaper (The Times) of online extremist content reveals that blacklists designed to prevent digital adverts from appearing next to it are not fit for purpose.
On YouTube, an advert for the new Mercedes E-Class saloon runs next to a pro-Isis video that has been viewed more than 115,000 times. The commercial appears a few seconds after the start of the video, which plays a song-praising jihad over a picture of an Isis flag and an anti-aircraft gun. A commercial for the F-Pace SUV from Jaguar, the British carmaker, runs next to the video.
Additionally adverts for Honda, Reuters, Halifax, Argos, also appear on extremist videos posted on YouTube by supporters of groups that include Combat 18.
After being informed Google, which owns the social media platform, said it took down some of the videos. It is understood that in some cases advertising revenues had gone to the rights holders of songs used on the videos rather than to the video owner.
A Google spokesperson said: “When it comes to content on YouTube, we remove flagged videos that break our rules and have a zero tolerance policy for content that incites violence or hatred.
Some content on YouTube may be controversial and offensive, which is why we only allow advertising against videos which fall within our advertising guidelines.
Our partners can also choose not to appear against content they consider inappropriate, and we have a responsibility to work with the industry to help them make informed choices.”
Well it doesn’t appear to be working very well. This leads us to the oblivious question, who polices Google? Evidently they are in the most part ineffective if not they are simply incompetent.
Several brands have accused ad agencies of not acting in their best interests. Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, the world’s biggest advertiser, warned earlier this year (reported in the CTL article “Stop The Fraud”).
“It’s time marketers and advertisers stopped giving digital a “free pass” and cracked down on the “fraudulent” and “murky” practices that continue to pervade the industry”, Pritchard, said. “We have a media supply chain which is murky at best and fraudulent at worst. We need to clean it up.”
Many of the companies said that they were unaware of and “deeply concerned” content that is presence on the YouTube sites. They blamed programmatic advertising, a system using complex computer technology to buy digital adverts in the milliseconds that a webpage takes to load. Many agencies have their own programmatic divisions, which often apply mark-ups to digital commercials without the brands’ knowledge.
A pro-Nazi advert carried an advert for the charity Marie Curie
One Combat 18 video on YouTube, showing an armed man standing in front of a burning swastika, hosts an advert for Marie Curie, the hospice charity.
Google publishes its policy on what it calls:
The policies below cover content that is sometimes legally or culturally sensitive. Online advertising can be a powerful way to reach customers, but in sensitive areas, we also work hard to avoid showing these ads when and where they might be inappropriate.
For that reason, we allow the promotion of the content below, but on a limited basis. These promotions may not show to every user in every location, and advertisers may need to meet additional requirements before their ads are eligible to run. Note that not all ad products, features, or networks are able to support this restricted content. Further details can be found in the Policy Centre.
However an authorised Nissan dealer’s adverts appear on the official YouTube pages of far-right parties including the BNP and the English Defence League, while Sony is promoted on an anti-Semitic video entitled: “The cunning of the Jews”. Argos, the retailer, is one of a number of brands advertised on sexually explicit YouTube videos. Commercials for HSBC, JD Sports appear on “alt-right” and Islamist websites, including one promoting a “Holocaust Amnesia Day”.
Adverts for Dropbox and Disney are embedded in sunnah-online.com. The website hosts lectures by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. He is a Jamaican-born Canadian Muslim teacher, speaker, and author who lives in Qatar. He considers himself a Salafi (he is an ultra-conservative reformists. He advocates a return to the traditions of the “forefathers'”. He rejects religious innovation or bid’ah, and support the implementation of sharia Islamic law). Because of what his critics call “extremist views”. Philips has been banned from entering Australia, Britain, Denmark and Kenya, banned from re-entering Germany, ordered to leave Bangladesh, and arrested in the Philippines for “inciting and recruiting people to conduct terrorist activities. He also argues that a husband cannot be charged with rape, and Esa al-Hindi, a terrorist sentenced to life imprisonment.
Lloyds Bank is advertised on eramuslim.com, a site banned last month by the Indonesian government for allegedly promoting hate speech.
Users that intend to make money from advertising must be approved by Google, which is supposed to ensure that videos do not breach the site’s terms and conditions.
When challenged on their policy on security on their sites including YouTube a spokesman stated its policy on advertising: “This is deeply disturbing,” He further said “Programmatic advertising enables agencies to track potential customers around the web and serve them adverts on whichever website they are browsing. Indeed some agencies have been accused of making huge undeclared profits as a result”. This seem to me to be an abrogation of their real responsibility, a case of looking for someone else to blame, rather then taking responsibility for their own short comings.
“Programmatic advertising is a big concern for us and the whole advertising industry,” Hicham Felter, a spokesman for ISBA, the trade body representing Britain’s biggest advertisers, said. “There is a greater risk of ads appearing in violent, pornographic, extremist and other ‘unsafe’ brand environments because of the volume and speed at which programmatic trading is carried out.” He added: “The suspicion is that the surge in programmatic trading is being fuelled by the profit media agencies can make rather than because it delivers better results for their clients.”
A Google spokeswoman further said: “that it had a zero-tolerance policy for content that incites violence or hatred. Advertisers could choose not to appear against content they considered inappropriate.
But what are they doing to stop this problem? Apparently very little or nothing.
The six top advertising agencies each denied any wrongdoing, conflict of interest or sharp practice and said that their relationships with clients were transparent.
The evidence is however there. Their platitudes are simply that, platitudes. YouTube’s revenue relies on advertising. It’s up to the Agencies to pull the plug on these insidious and disgraceful practices.