Mercedes, Honda, Reuters ads found on jihadist websites

13 Feb 2017


High-profile companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Sandals Resorts are inadvertently advertising on jihadist and other extremist websites, a new investigation reveals.

The ads appear on the sites of terror groups such as Islamic State and the neo-Nazi Combat 18 - producing thousands of dollars in profit for the extremists, according to London's The Times .

One ad for Mercedes E-Class vehicles appears next to an ISIS YouTube video. The ad runs as a bar across the bottom of the screen as a jihadi song blares and the image of the ISIS flag is seen, the newspaper said.

An ad for the Sandals Resorts chain appears on a YouTube video that showcases the militant group al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda offshoot.

A Sandals representative told the paper that the company makes ''every effort'' to keep its ads away from offensive content.

The rep also blamed Google, which owns YouTube, for not properly labelling the video as ''sensitive''.

The newspaper also found ads for Honda, Thomson Reuters, Halifax Bank and Liverpool University with clips for the UK neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

Google took down the videos once informed of the breach, but some of the clips may have provided ad revenue to punk bands whose music is heard in some of the videos.

The juxtaposition of ads with terrorist videos raised concerns about whether companies could potentially be associated with the extremist content.

''One of the problems with programmatic advertising is that ads don't know where they appear,'' David Carroll, professor of media design at The New School, told the newspaper. ''That makes it extremely … lucrative for extremely hyper-partisan and fringe media to succeed widely.''

Some companies are planning to take action to ensure that their marketing does not feed the coffers of terrorist organisations.

A brand officer at a worldwide ad agency criticized the process for placing companies' ads next to offensive content.

''We have a media supply chain which is murky at best and fraudulent at worst,'' Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, told The Times. ''We need to clean it up.''

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