Big brands pull YouTube ads over sexy images of kids

A woman walks past a billboard advertisement outside a branch of discount supermarket Lidl in central England on Nov 17, 2017.
A woman walks past a billboard advertisement outside a branch of discount supermarket Lidl in central England on Nov 17, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Confectionery maker Mondelez, Lidl, Mars and other consumer goods producers have pulled advertising from YouTube after Britain's Times newspaper found the video-sharing site was showing clips of scantily clad children alongside the ads of major brands.

Comments from hundreds of paedophiles were posted alongside the videos, which appeared to have been uploaded by the children themselves, according to a Times investigation. One clip of a pre-teenage girl in a nightie drew 6.5 million views.

The paper said YouTube, owned by Google, had allowed sexualised imagery of children to be easily searchable and had not lived up to promises to better monitor and police its services to protect children.

A YouTube spokesman said: "There shouldn't be any ads running on this content and we are working urgently to fix this."

YouTube had offered a similar apology and promised a comprehensive review in March, when the Times reported that ads from companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Procter & Gamble were appearing next to videos of religious extremists.

Chocolate maker Mars pulled back from Google's broader ad offerings as well as YouTube.

"We have taken the decision to immediately suspend all our online advertising on YouTube and Google globally," it said in a statement. "Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on YouTube and Google."

6.5m

Number of views a YouTube clip of a pre-teenage girl in a nightie drew.

Diageo, maker of Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker whisky, said it had begun an urgent investigation and halted all YouTube advertising until appropriate safeguards were in place.

A spokesman for the British arm of German discount retailer Lidl said it was "completely unacceptable that this content is available to view, and it is, therefore, clear that the strict policies which Google has assured us were in place to tackle offensive content are ineffective".

Computer and printer company HP blamed the problem on a "content misclassification" by Google, and suspended all of its advertising on YouTube globally.

YouTube relies on software algorithms, external non-government groups and police forces to report inappropriate images of children. The company announced last Wednesday that it would expand those efforts to crack down on sexualised or violent content aimed at "family friendly" sections of YouTube.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 26, 2017, with the headline 'Big brands pull YouTube ads over sexy images of kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe