We at Stichting The London Story are partnering with Stop Funding Hate Germany as part of the Conscious Ad Network to raise awareness against automated advertising funds going to non-English European YouTube channels that create harmful content.
YouTube’s video-recommending AI has been criticized for years for recommending viewers toxic videos containing hate speech and other toxic content. Now, YouTube’s AI is again being closely scrutinized for the content creators it generates profits for: Since 2008, any creator with a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the preceding year can join the Partner Program through which they benefit from an automated system of advertisement. Importantly, YouTube officially only allows “advertiser-friendly” content to be monetized, and in theory excludes channels with “hateful content”, “inappropriate language” and even “controversial issues and sensitive events” from monetization. However, over the past years, several content creators with sensationalist and inflammatory content have been able to opt in for the Partner Program. While changing YouTube’s AI is difficult and a longer effort, advertisers often neither know where their ad-spent is going, nor that they have the ability to control where it does.
Why non-English YouTube?
YouTube’s AI is particularly ineffective for non-English content, as it fails to recognize toxic content as “non-advertiser-friendly” and moderate it effectively by excluding it from the Partner Program.
For instance, The London Story during its research on disinformation on Facebook in the Netherlands also identified monetized YouTube channels linked to actors calling for the murder of Dutch health officials and propagating outright disinformation, such as the disproven far-right conspiracy theories peddled by QAnon(s).
Additionally, the German citizens in our team have noticed several monetized channels that propagate false information, are part of coordinated social harms, and contain harmful speech, such as dehumanizing migrants and minorities. One channel we monitored, RT Deutsch, has already been deleted because it violated YouTube standards by disseminating disinformation. Several other channels have had videos removed for violating YouTube content guidelines, and are connected to other social media pages that have been flagged and/or deleted for violating guidelines there – but not only remain on YouTube, but also continue to be supported by ads, including recruitment ads by the German Army and the German customs police. We therefore decided to focus on these German- and Dutch-language YouTube channels, as well as other non-English European channels, to campaign against the funding of harmful and hate speech.
What are we asking?
In the coming weeks, we will be calling on advertisers to stop funding hate and conspiracy theories on YouTube. Advertisers can choose “Placement Exclusions” – and with the help of Google AdWords, advertisers can easily manage their advertising account and choose channels to exclude from advertising. We are thereby building on previous successful campaigns on YouTube, such as that by Avaaz on contacting advertisers about their placement in climate disinformation videos.
What can you do?
When you see an advertiser in a video that propagates toxic content, such as hate and disinformation, take a screenshot. Here’s an example:
Send a tweet of the screenshot and tag the company advertising. So for the example above, you would tag @SwappieSuomi. Politely and objectively inform them that you came across their ad here, and invite them to exclude this channel from their advertising if they want to. You can use the hashtags
If you want to help us create a comprehensive overview of advertisers and channels, and make sure that the content indeed is objectionable, feel free to enter some information about the video and the advertiser in this form.