It is becoming increasingly apparent that digital giants such as Google and Facebook do not have the expertise to filter content on their sites. Recently the UK Government took adverts for public services off YouTube and summoned Google to an ‘interview without coffee’.
As we have said before, it is basically not possible to completely track hate speech or homophobic content. Trolls have been around on Facebook for years, and they are still there – as are pages of child pornography, as discovered by the BBC.
In Europe, countries are beginning to focus on the issue, and Germany has said it will fine Facebook if hate speech appears on the site.
While the digital giants – presumably – scramble to fix the problem, the question becomes: how much of a threat does this development represent?
And the answer must be: “potentially huge”. The UK Government is not alone. Both supermarket giant Sainsbury and the Guardian newspaper both withdrew their advertising from Google. The Guardian – not surprisingly – publically condemned their inability to filter content. A spokesman said “we have stopped all advertising through Google with immediate effect until we receive guarantees that this won’t happen in the future.” Other UK firms soon followed.
This may take some time. For Google or Facebook to able to give such assurances is not feasible in the short term. The only way they could possibly do so would be to employ who knows how many people to watch who knows how many timelines and posts.
The problem for both companies is that – sorry, but yes we have said this before too – their businesses rely to a crazy degree on advertising revenues. Between them, they account for the vast majority of the online advertising market.
Yet no company wants to run the risk of their brand appearing next to inappropriate content.
It is more than possible that many brands are re-assessing their advertising strategies. And, until the coast is clear and AI etc is good enough to solve the problem, advertising revenues could very well move to more traditional, controlled platforms.
It is not too alarmist to suggest that this development could be the trigger that pushes people – and money – away from social media.