Vietnam warns brands of ads placed alongside ‘toxic’ YouTube content

There are some 8,000 ‘toxic’ videos with fake and anti-government content on Google-owned YouTube

A picture illustration shows YouTube on a cell phone

Vietnam’s broadcast watchdog has called on brands to consider suspending ads on YouTube to ensure their commercials will not be placed alongside ‘toxic’ content on the world’s largest video-sharing platform.

Advertisements by big-name brands in Vietnam are appearing before and during nearly 8,000 videos with ‘toxic’ content, material considered to be fake or anti-government, on Google-owned YouTube, the Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Information said on Thursday.

With YouTube’s Google-run advertising services, a portion of the money brands pay to run commercials goes to video owners, as per the site’s policy.

YouTube advertisers have no direct control over which specific videos their commercials will be placed with because the process is done using computer algorithms that pair ads with videos directed at specific target audiences.

This means Vietnamese firms with totally lawful operations could potentially fund producers of inappropriate content if their ads are placed alongside the toxic videos, according to the department.

“Many big brands have expressed disappointment that their ads appear alongside inappropriate videos,” Nguyen Thanh Lam, head of the broadcasting department, said.

To avoid any association with these ‘toxic’ videos, large brands such as Vinamilk, Sun Group, Ford, and Daico, the ad agency behind Yamaha, have suspended their YouTube campaigns.

Brand representatives and advertisers have also called on the government to create policies that ensure a safe environment to continue running online adverts.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan announced that the ministry is working with Google to develop a solution that supports brands and advertisers.

Lam said Google has shown goodwill in cooperating with the Vietnamese government by removing 42 of the 8,000 inappropriate videos from their platform.

“Google is only able to remove content on a video-by-video basis,” Lam admitted.

“Under their mechanism, it’s impossible to remove all 8,000 videos.”

Last month, the information ministry and its culture counterpart also discussed a plan to slap an administrative fine on YouTube, saying the platform has violated Vietnam’s advertising regulations.

According to a government decree, if cross-border online platforms want to launch ads and make a profit from business in Vietnam, they should first inform local authorities of the names and addresses of the Vietnamese advertisers, a protocol not followed by YouTube.

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