Digital defiance Companies pull ads from offensive content

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Two well-known Swiss companies have followed the lead of hundreds of British companies that have stopped advertising on Google and YouTube to prevent their brands from being associated with neo-Nazi and other extremist videos. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

Switzerland’s biggest life insurance company, Swiss Life, and food manufacturer Baer told Swiss public broadcaster SRF’s “10vor10” program that placing their ads next to offensive or right-wing videos causes reputational damage. Google bought the ubiquitous YouTube platform for $1.65 billion in 2006.

Algorithms, not a conscious human decision, place the ads next to objectionable content which also includes right-wing conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, Swiss Life and Baer described their companies as shocked and outraged at the practice.

According to the TV program, the same phenomenon affects ads by other major Swiss enterprises such as supermarket chains Coop and Migros and manufacturers Nivea and Ricola.

More than 250 companies in Great Britain have reportedly ended advertising deals with Google because their ads were placed next to offensive content.

Google told the TV program it has taken some measures to block such content and prevent the occurrence, and wishes to "expressly apologise" for cases of "displaying brands in the context of content that does not match their values".