Marks and Spencer last night pulled its advertising from Google’s YouTube as part of a growing boycott over its failure to remove extremist content.
The high street chain became the latest in a string of household names to suspend its marketing on the site because of concerns adverts are inadvertently funding terror groups.
Ministers last night faced demands to take action against the internet giant after the Mail found neo-Nazi videos remained on YouTube despite repeated warnings.
Vile: Masked figures marching in a recruitment video for the banned far-Right National Action, which has only just been taken down from YouTube
Fears about Google’s political influence also mounted after it emerged the firm’s bosses have met ministers at least once a month since the 2015 general election.
M&S yesterday followed HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Audi, the BBC, O2, the Royal Mail and Domino’s in pulling its advertising from YouTube. Waitrose, Barclays, Vodafone and Sky are understood to be considering similar action.
YouTube hands £6.15 of advertising revenue for every 1,000 views to those who post videos, meaning household names have unintentionally been funnelling cash to terror groups, neo-Nazis and homophobes. Many videos generate millions of hits.
In a bid to halt the advertising exodus, Google has admitted it ‘can and must do more’, and has promised to make changes ‘in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear.’
But an M&S spokesman said yesterday: ‘In order to ensure brand safety, we are pausing activity across Google platforms whilst the matter is worked through.’ Google does not actively look for hate content on YouTube, instead waiting for users to flag it up. This has enraged many firms, which have found their brands promoted alongside terrorist videos.
The advertising boycott comes as the close links that Google has built with the top of Government are revealed today.
Theresa May, David Cameron and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley are among 13 ministers who have held dozens of meetings with the internet giant since the election.
The extent of the cosy relationship between Google and Whitehall will spark fresh concerns over the scale of the firm’s political clout.
In the 17 months between May 2015 and September last year, ministers held at least 27 meetings with the web company. Data for the past six months has yet to be published.
Marks and Spencer last night pulled its advertising from Google’s YouTube as part of a growing boycott over its failure to remove extremist content
Mrs May met Google in July 2015, when she was home secretary, while the firm attended a business roundtable with then prime minister Mr Cameron that October. Internet safety minister Baroness Shields – a former Google managing director – met with her old firm seven times, which included discussions on online extremism.
Baroness Shields, who was made a peer by Mr Cameron, is one of dozens of Google executives who have been through a ‘revolving door’ between the tech company and Government.The firm has hired at least 26 Whitehall staff, including No 10 aides, in the past decade.
Its staff have also headed in the oopposite direction. Nigel Huddleston left his job as the search engine’s industry head of travel after being elected as a Tory MP in 2015.
Rachel Whetstone, a former aide to ex-Tory leader Michael Howard – and friend of Mr Cameron – later worked for Google as head of international communications. She is also married to the former PM’s ex-strategist, Steve Hilton.
The Tories lavished £312,000 on Google ads in the run-up to the election. Google chairman Eric Schmidt spent five years as a business adviser to Mr Cameron and previously gave the keynote speech at the Tory conference.
According to marketing experts, extremists have made £250,000 from adverts for household brands and public bodies hosted on Google.
The search giant has earned around £120,000.
One of the biggest earning hate preachers is the Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, who is banned from visiting the UK. His YouTube channel has netted him around £65,000.
The boycott of YouTube started on Friday, when ministers suspended all government advertising on the video- sharing platform until it could all but guarantee public money would not fund hate content.
Officials learned that adverts for public bodies such as UK Aid and the Metropolitan Police had been running alongside YouTube videos containing extremist material.
Hate videos still appear on YouTube after MPs' warnings
Google failed to take down neo-Nazi videos from YouTube despite repeated warnings, prompting MPs to demand that the Government takes action against the internet giant.
Recruitment videos for banned far-Right group National Action remained on the site until last night despite a promise by Google to remove its offensive material.
While they were finally taken down after the Daily Mail contacted Google, other offensive films, including one showing how to tie a hangman’s noose, remain online.
Alarming: A video on how to tie a noose, viewed more than 700,000 times, yet Google has refused to take it down because it is 'instructional'
One National Action film, which included details on how to join the racist movement, said: ‘Will you fight for your people? We will not stop until the alien has been driven out.
‘Remember stranger whose land you are in, because there are men and women who will fight to keep it pure. Britain is ours, the rest must go.’ In a second video, the group said: ‘We continue the battle for the final victory of our race.’
PRIVACY FEARS OVER NHS DEALS
Google has struck up deals with four NHS hospitals to share the data of millions of patients.
The hospitals concerned are in London. The contracts are with Google’s artificial intelligence firm DeepMind, which is using technology to improve treatment of certain conditions.
Plans include developing an app to diagnose a potentially fatal kidney condition, and advanced radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
The most controversial contracts involve the Royal Free and Imperial College Healthcare, where millions of files have been handed over to DeepMind without patients’ knowledge in a move privacy campaigners say is ‘inexcusable’. The deal with Imperial, struck up in 2015, is still being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office over possible breaches of privacy.
Phil Booth, of medConfidential, said: ‘DeepMind claims their deal with the Royal Free and Imperial is a direct care project ... yet they continuously fail to answer any privacy or transparency questions.
‘Mistakes were made, and the only people who refuse to admit error are Google.’
DeepMind said they ‘strongly contest’ allegations that the deals were ‘inexcusable’.
On Tuesday Google chiefs assured the home affairs committee they would work harder to remove offensive material and agreed content by National Action should be taken down. But committee chairman Yvette Cooper wrote to the firm on Friday after the group’s videos remained available.
She wrote: ‘The committee should not have to make further complaints to you to ensure that all videos from this proscribed organisation are now properly removed.’
Last night after the Mail found two National Action clips were still accessible, Miss Cooper said she would ask Home Office minister Sarah Newton and Solicitor General Robert Buckland to take action against the firm in a committee hearing tomorrow.
Miss Cooper said: ‘How many times does this need to be raised with them before Google get their act together?’
National Action became the first far-Right group to be banned under terrorism laws in December by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who described it as a ‘racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation that glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology’. In her letter to Google vice president Peter Barron on Friday, Miss Cooper said it was ‘astonishing’ the firm had not removed the content, adding: ‘The lack of social responsibility Google is showing towards hate crime on YouTube is extremely troubling.’
The two National Action videos were last night finally taken down. A Google spokesman said: ‘We have clear policies against inciting violence or hatred and remove content that is illegal or breaks our rules when made aware of it.’
But other clips were found on YouTube showing images relating to self-harm, eating disorders and suicide. Google removed some of the content when alerted by the Mail, but refused to take down a video, which has been watched more than 700,000 times, demonstrating how to tie a hangman’s noose because it was ‘instructional’.
Alarmingly, dozens of users commented on the video claiming they intended to use it to commit suicide. Stephen Buckley, of mental health charity Mind, said it is ‘vital to recognise the huge danger’ of websites promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.