The chief executive of News Corp, parent company of The Sun and Times Newspapers, has warned that digital algorithms at Facebook and Google have “left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship”.
His comments follow an investigation by The Times that revealed how programmatic advertising has led to adverts from reputable brands appearing alongside extremist online content and porn.
The fallout has included a call today from 24 local newspaper publishers urging advertisers to use them rather than “blind programmatic ad buying”.
Speaking at the Asia Society in Hong Kong Robert Thomson said: “The embarrassment for these advertisers, naturally conscious of their image, is understandable, but the situation is far more serious than mere loss of face.
“Because of YouTube, that is Google, there is a real chance that some of these clients have been funding extremism, whether it be Islamist excess or neo-fascist nonsense, depending on the type of advertising, it is estimated by the ad industry that a YouTube partner, which I can’t believe some of these now are, could earn about 55 per cent of the revenue from a video.
“The rate will vary with the type of ad, but you get the picture.
“In recent years, how many millions of dollars have been channelled to organisations that are an existential threat to our societies?
“Obviously, there will inevitably be more formal investigations by authorities in coming months, and it will be interesting t
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has called for tech companies like Google and Facebook to recognise they are now publishers and take responsibility for the content they distribute.
Thomson said: “The word Orwellian is flagrantly used and abused. But when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, otherwise known as GAF, Orwellian is unused.
“The institutional neglect has now left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship.
“There has been no tradition, as there is at great newspapers, of each day arguing over rights and wrongs, of fretful, thoughtful agonizing over social responsibility and the freedom of speech.