Eric Feinberg may have caused YouTube’s ad crisis. He also has a patented solution.
YouTube has recently been dealing with a rather serious problem. Major ad companies are leaving the platform after discovering that their ads have been seen on extremist videos, and content from hate groups. General Motors, Walmart, Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson have all pulled their ads from YouTube, leading to economic troubles for the platform, and also for content creators. The man to blame for all of this is named Eric Feinberg.
Feinberg is a marketing-services executive who in the past few months has made it his mission to hunt down instances of ads appearing on content belonging to hate-groups or terrorists and then publishing screenshots of it to journalists in the UK and US. The result has been a mass exodus of major companies who advertise on YouTube. Feinberg is the owner of GIPEC, or Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center, which employs “deep web interrogation” to find coding and links to hate groups online.
Feinberg is also the owner of a patent issued in December for a “computerized system and method for detecting fraudulent or malicious enterprises.” His system searches for offensive terms such as “kill Jews”, and then logs thousands of innocent sounding search terms which he says “co-trend” with such language, and uses this to help him track down offensive videos. Now he’s offering his proprietary tech to companies like Google so they can easier filter their content, and remove it so advertisers don’t have to leave.
What Feinberg has done is really damaging in a lot of ways. First, it damages YouTube as a platform. It is no secret that the company is struggling to break even. If not for the fact that it was owned by Google, who are shoveling money into it, almost as a public service, we might not even have YouTube right now. It certainly doesn’t need any more economic strain as a result of advertisers leaving. However, they are leaving, and this is forcing YouTube to take actions it really shouldn’t. There are many channels on YouTube these days which provide counter-cultural or politically incorrect content that is far from extremist or hateful, and yet frequently have their videos demonetized. Many such channels have to rely heavily on Patreon for funding because they simply can’t support themselves on the platform anymore.
By drawing light to advertisers who are ‘linked’ to extremist content, we are thus risking losing other, perfectly legitimate content. And perhaps we could argue whether such a sacrifice would be worth it, were mr. Feinberg’s actions actually doing any good, but that’s doubtful. The vast majority of people who watch YouTube probably realize that Walmart doesn’t have someone sitting in an office, who decides manually what videos their ads should be on – it’s all done automatically by computers. There’s no intentional or contextual link between a video by a neo-Nazi and an ad for cheap school supplies that plays on top. As a result, the vast majority of people who watch YouTube really don’t care where Walmart’s ads end up.
Playing devil’s advocate, Feinberg could have very noble reasons for his crusade. One could argue that preventing ads on extremist content would help block a revenue source for extremists. Certainly, this is true to a point, but one must ask if most hate groups have the kind of views that could generate a lot of money anyway: A YouTuber has many ways of inflating their income by making deals with companies to promote various products, but if we’re just talking video-adverts, most YouTubers earn around $5-8 per 1000 views.
At the end of the day, these ads have been on the same videos for years without anyone making a fuss. The only reason there is a mass exodus of advertisers, and the only reason there’s a big fuss about it, is because someone decided to go on a crusade.
source: Ad Age