Google has said it “can and must do more” after being ordered by the Government to explain why taxpayer-funded adverts are appearing alongside extremist material.
The Cabinet Office said it has placed a temporary restriction on its YouTube advertising “pending reassurances from Google that Government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way”.
The Guardian and Channel 4 have joined the Cabinet Office in pulling advertising from the internet giant as a result of an investigation by The Times, which also claims other global brands are considering their own positions.
Google’s UK managing director Ronan Harris said the tech giant would now make changes to the way adverts appear in videos.
“We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content,” he wrote in a blog post.
“While we have a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, we can do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetised videos and content.
“We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and 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.”
Rape apologists, anti-Semites and hate preachers were receiving payouts from publicly subsidised adverts on YouTube, according to the newspaper.
A Government spokeswoman said: “Digital advertising is a cost-effective way for the Government to engage millions of people in vital campaigns such as military recruitment and blood donation.
“Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to Government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content.
“We have placed a temporary restriction on our YouTube advertising pending reassurances from Google that Government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way.
“Google has been summoned for discussions at the Cabinet Office to explain how it will deliver the high quality of service Government demands on behalf of the taxpayer.”
David Pemsel, the Guardian’s chief executive, wrote to Google to say that it was “completely unacceptable” for its advertising to be misused in this way, the newspaper reported.
Channel 4 said it has removed all of its advertising from YouTube as it is not satisfied that it is a “safe environment”.
The BBC and Transport for London (TfL) have also confirmed they are halting their advertising with the internet giant.
A BBC spokesman said: “We expect Google to ensure that BBC advertising only appears alongside appropriate content, in line with their published standards.
“We have removed our advertising until we have sufficient assurances this can be guaranteed.”
In a statement, TfL said it had instructed its media agency to “pause all YouTube advertising until we are satisfied with the strength of YouTube’s brand safety measures”.