Some of the world's leading consumer and tech companies, from apparel makers to media giants and department stores chains, may have "unknowingly helped finance" extremist channels through their paid advertisements on Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) video streaming platform YouTube, according to CNN.
"Ads from over 300 companies and organizations—including tech giants, major retailers, newspapers and government agencies—ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda," read a recent CNN report. (See also: More Time Spent on Google Sites Than Facebook: Study.)
Companies listed by the media outlet include household name brands Adidas AG (ADDYY) Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), Facebook Inc. (FB), Hershey Co. (HSY), Hilton Hotels Corp. (HLT), Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) LinkedIn, Mozilla, Netflix Inc. (NFLX), Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) and Under Armour Inc. (UAA).
Cash to White Nationalists?
On Thursday, Baltimore-based athletic apparel and footwear company Under Armour pulled its ads from YouTube, the leading video network, after its ads appeared on a white nationalist channel.
Ads from five U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Transportation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also appeared on the channels, implying that tax payer money could have funded harmful content on the tech titan's international video platform.
In response to the CNN report, YouTube issued a statement indicating that it removes offensive content when it is flagged, and that the company is "working with our advertisers and getting this right." Its sprawling platform sees 400 hours of content uploaded every minute, on a self-service system with little human intervention. Harmful, extremist content can stay on YouTube until a complaint is acted on. The Mountain View, California-based unit has aimed at curbing the issue through restrictions on which channels are able to run ads and make revenues which are then shared with parent Google.
Last year, a handful of YouTube sponsors pulled their ads off the service when Buzzfeed revealed that they had appeared on videos promoting hate speech and extremist fare. Alphabet and its tech peers such as Facebook have come under fire recently from government agencies, advocacy groups, users and the media, for various alleged abuses and mishandlings. Earlier this month, 20 or so advocacy groups filed a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggesting that YouTube has violated children's privacy law, calling for the search giant to pay "tens of billions" for illegal profiting and make a drastic change in how the platform handles children's content. (See also: YouTube Facing Kids' Privacy Concerns.)