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Thursday, 30 March 2017 12:41

YouTube ad boycott? Google doesn't give a stuff

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Google's attitude to the controversy over its ads appearing on racist, anti-Semitic and anti-women videos is not surprising: the company has made some comforting noises but essentially it has given all those who pulled their ads the collective finger.

You can do that when you are the only game in town. Google knows the advertisers will have to come crawling back.

Big American companies like AT&T, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson are among those who have pulled the plug on YouTube ads.

In Australia, companies like Telstra, Tourism Australia, and Vodafone Australia have followed suit.

But there is hardly a murmur from Google.

Any offers to refund money for campaigns that ran on videos that promote terrorism? No.

Any move to pacify advertisers by running make-good ads on videos that are suitable for carrying those ads? Once again, no.

Any commitment to getting rid of the rash of material that is clearly promoting conspiracy theories and lies? No.

giving the finger big

Reading this post from Google's UK managing director Ronan Harris, the message comes through loud and clear.

Advertisers are provided "a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear". In other words, if your ad appears on some video which promotes physical attacks on women, it's you who are to blame.

And even where Harris says changes will be made, note that he adds, "we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network".

So, once again, after all is said and done, and it is business as usual, if you see your ad on a video promoting terrorism, then you are the only one to blame.

Google is extremely good at not taking responsibility for its actions and also in always asking to be judged by a different yardstick than other technology companies. No better example of the latter can be given than the encounter that Oracle chief executive Safra Catz detailed during last year's trial in California, where a jury was trying to decide whether Google's use of 37 Java APIs in Android could be covered under fair use.

During her time on the witness stand, Catz cited a chance meeting with Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, at a bat mitzvah. She said Walker had approached her and claimed that what he characterised as the "old rules" did not apply to Google as it was a special company.

Catz said she responded with a one-liner: "Thou shalt not steal."

By cosying up to the US government, Google has ensured that it will not come under any pressure from the only entity that can cause it any pain.

And when you are effectively the media — along with Facebook, Google collects practically all the advertising revenue that is derived from the Web — then you really don't have to bother about a few hundred million dollars going walkabout. It will all return – with interest.

There is just one game in town and Google knows that. Thus, it can thumb its nose at anyone who walks away.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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