YouTube is caught in the middle of a war between conservative commentors and advertisers.
CNN has reported that mainstream companies like 20th Century Fox, Paramount and others were still advertising on conservative and conspiracy YouTube channels like Alex Jones’s InfoWars. After being contacted by CNN concerning that apparent choice, they pulled the ads.
However, conservative commentators are claiming that YouTube is engaging in an over-reaching censorship campaign that they are calling “The Purge,” a take-down flurry that lumps together conservative pundits, gun advocates, conspiracy channels and many other right-wing commentators.
Many of the conservative sites are receiving strikes or getting their channels taken down and are claiming that the actions amount to political censorship that, they claim, common carriers should not engage in.
Last week, YouTube reprimanded InfoWars for its stance on so-called “crisis actors,” claiming a video posted to the Alex Jones Channel violated its community standards. The Jones channel received a second strike (later rescinded). Three strikes and it could be removed from YouTube. The company blamed over-zealous new hires who may have overstepped their guidelines.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has talked about her concerns regarding take-downs. She recently blogged, “We realize we have a serious social responsibility to get these emerging policy issues right, so we seek advice from dozens of expert advisors and third-parties.”
The CNN report noted that the brands purchase their ads from YouTube or through marketing companies, and do not know exactly where their ads will appear. However, they can broadly exclude certain channels or subjects, but often things slip through the cracks. Paramount, one of the companies contacted by CNN, claimed it opted into a “sensitive subject exclusion” filter to control where its ads appear. But apparently its ads still appeared on the Alex Jones site.
YouTube did not respond to questions from CNN about that issue.
“We have a filter and brand safety assurances from Google (YouTube’s parent) our content would never run around offensive content,” a Paramount Network spokesperson told CNN.
A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox told CNN the company was unaware of placement on an InfoWars channel and immediately took it down after learning of the issue.