Tuesday, 31 July 2007

BBC Panorama on Web 2.0 and cyber-bullying - the downside of UGC

Last night Panorama, a current affairs show on the BBC, ran an episode entitled 'children's fight club'. It showed how Web 2.0 is being abused and facilitating cyber-bullying - the most shocking aspect being youths filming fights and violence on mobile phones and then uploading it to the web. One of the main destinations for this was, Google owned, You Tube.
According to Panorama, "Google are worth more than $170bn. When I asked how many people they employ to actively monitor the content being uploaded to YouTube, I was, and I'm sure many will be, surprised to learn that no-one actively polices the site. The police say this is not good enough and they want YouTube and other websites to actively police their content and forward details of those who upload violent footage so they can be investigated. If they were prepared to do this it may reduce the bullying and attacks for entertainment on vulnerable children."

Nick Burcher writes: "I think the issue of web censorship is a sensitive area, however You Tube have been effective at removing porn from their sites and have (under threat of massive legal action) removed Viacom and other copywrited clips. Other major sites have also been able to police content added by users - think Ebay and World Cup tickets. Whilst it may be difficult and complex, I think You Tube particularly has a social responsibility to report these clips and then remove them from their site. This will not end the problem and may boost underground sites, but effective regulation by You Tube coupled with effective follow up from the police will help."

The other issue in the program was around advertisers being placed alongside inappropriate content on websites that have been sold by networks and sales houses. The issue being that agencies buy from these networks 'blind' ie dont always know which sites advertising will appear on. The issue came about because many major UK advertisers were found on offensive sites such as http://www.psfights.com/ where gratuitous violence is shown.

There has been a Press Release on the industry position on this and a body called IASH (Internet Advertising Sales Houses) has been set up to regulate and agree to Terms and Conditions which will mean that:

a) The above situations don't happen again
b) Networks can be trusted to deliver what is requested
c) Less moral sales houses will be rooted out
"Advertisers place their trust in sales houses and networks and while no one deliberately placed brand advertising on inappropriate sites, care must be taken to avoid a chain-buy involving unvetted international inventory" - Guy Phillipson, IAB chief executive

(This however will not apply to every video site - You Tube, whilst having it's own policies, will fall outside of the IASH remit.)

Finally, the IPA released a statement which has been published by Panorama:
IPA statement

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the trade body and professional institute for the UK's leading advertising, media and marketing communications agencies, offered to take part in this Panorama programme to ensure that the position of UK advertisers and their advertising agencies was accurately portrayed.

We wish on behalf of the advertising industry to make it clear, in case there is any ambiguity explicit or implied, that we do not condone advertising on unsavoury websites and that neither advertisers nor their agencies are complicit in 'cyber bullying'. Any suggestion to the contrary is misleading and an inaccurate portrayal of the advertiser's role in relation to these websites.

Every effort is made by the UK marketing communications industry to ensure that advertisers do not find their advertisements on such sites.

Advertising agencies that purchase media space through intermediary online networks require, in their contracts, specific warranties and obligations that the company's advertisements will not be associated with any objectionable content. When this occasionally occurs by mistake or human error, every effort is made to withdraw the advertising immediately and no fee is paid to the media owner.

In extreme cases of breach, it is likely that advertisers and their agencies will take legal action against the sales house or intermediary in question or by blacklisting the intermediary/sales house in question.

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