Platform Accountability

03 January 2018
Update on how major platforms are approaching inappropriate content and ISBA’s position on it

I wanted to start the year by reiterating ISBA’s commitment to ensuring that the major platforms step up fully to their responsibilities to society and are held to account to the same standards we would expect of responsible advertisers.
While we acknowledge the increased efforts by Google to make YouTube a safe platform for its users and suitable for advertisers, we continue to press for a more open and proactive approach to the vetting of content to address the issues identified and concerns raised in the UK.
The media continue to be able to uncover examples of unacceptable content, it appears with relative ease. Two such stories have run over the Christmas break allowing journalists to continue to assert that major brands are funding the publishers of unacceptable content, albeit inadvertently.
• Jailed sex pests profit from YouTube ads
• Call for crackdown after claims YouTube is shop window for child abuse
Please note these links are behind a paywall.
Political frustrations are also growing. Government Security Minister Ben Wallace gave an interview calling for the major tech platforms, including Google and Facebook, to face greater taxes to cover the costs of extra surveillance incurred by the security services because of lack of access to encrypted messaging. He made clear Government impatience with the tech industry in key areas: low levels of corporation tax compliance, the hosting of child abuse images and terrorist propaganda and online harassment. He is also concerned about the collateral damage to the media industry and democracy. The original article is behind a paywall but was also covered by the BBC.
For many advertisers, we recognise that there are huge commercial and competitive pressures to continue to invest. The platforms enjoy unassailable positions in search, social media and user-generated video. For many businesses, these channels are now essential parts of the business system. And audiences continue to migrate online and to mobile. However, advertisers should be concerned that unwelcome attention may turn to them in the near future, as the platforms’ principal source of revenue.
As the only organisation dedicated to representing advertisers, ISBA has a crucial role in addressing these challenges. We can and do represent our members’ perspective to the platforms and can and do work with Government where we share interests. While we understand, and indeed share Government’s frustration, we do not think that a fiscal response is the right one. Instead, we would like to explore with Government, our members and the platforms a range of statutory and self-regulatory policies, which we believe would be more effective.

In the meantime, we have recently reissued our Online Brand Safety Guidance which can be found here.

We have also convened another meeting with Google in February, where they will be presenting their action plan to strengthen content control to our members.

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