Online advertising moguls Google and Twitter are both following in Facebook’s footsteps by getting embroiled in an anti-Semitic advertising controversy which primarily concerns the oversight and moderation of their pervasive web advertising platforms. Facebook had, just a day earlier, started to defend its stance on the same.
BuzzFeed News had reported that Google’s advertising platform did not have any checks in place which gave advertisers a free hand to sell advertisements right next to anti-Semitic and racists queries. The queries were on the lines of ‘jewish parasite’, ‘Black people ruin everything’ and even ‘the evil jew’.
A large chunk of the one hundred billion USD revenue that Alphabet makes comes from Google’s ad tech platform. Google’s ad tech platform allows advertisers to target users based on the search phrases that they query.
Google’s advertising platform even suggests to the potential future advertisers that they run their own ads next to such similar hate messages. When a query was run for ‘why do jews ruin everything’, the ad platform responded with ‘jewish control of banks’ as the phrase next to which the ad should be posted. BuzzFeed did run a live campaign by purchasing ads which eventually led to Google disabling a number of keywords that were being displayed.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President Ads and Commerce at Google states that their goal is to make sure that their keyword suggestions tool does not make any offensive suggestions and even try and block all the offensive ads that are appearing. This check is done using an algorithm that checks for hate and offensive phrases and then blocks those ads from being posted online.
Twitter too allows advertisers to target users showing interest in hateful words such as the ‘N word’, ‘wetback’ and ‘Nazi’ as per a report published by The Daily Beast. What should add to Twitter’s worries is that it’s platform looks to be even more far reaching than Google’s and Facebook’s whose viewership caters to a few thousand people in US for such ads.
The report published by The Daily Beast states that Twitter’s advertising platform has the potential to likely engage with around 18.6 million accounts for the phrase ‘Nazi’ and around 14.5 million accounts for the ‘N word’. These stats were reported by The Daily Beast after it too ran a brief campaign on Twitter’s platform and concluded that Twitter’s process is automated with no checks in place to counter such ads being posted online.
Between them, Facebook and Google get 90 cents of every dollar spent on online advertising. This has led to concerns being raised in Silicon Valley and even the world over about the oversight checks, or more appropriately, the lack of efficient oversight checks on their platforms which act as an economic engine to the most popular applications and services the world over.
Incidents like the Charlottesville, Virginia episode which attracted neo Nazis and white nationalists, which ended with one counter protester dead are a stark reminder for us users as well as the ad platforms regarding the future potential of real world mobilization of hate groups.