European Parliament 2019-2024 Committee on Petitions 30.3.2022 NOTICE TO MEMBERS Subject: 1. Petition No 0932/2021 by Zoltán Bíró (Hungarian) on the placement of Google advertisements next to or in controversial online content Summary of petition The petitioner alleges that Google places advertisements next to extremist, anti-Semitic, Nazi, racist, homophobic and misogynistic online content. He explains that even though the company provides for the flagging advertisement in inappropriate online environments, and whereas he repeatedly used this feature, none of the flagged ads was removed by Google, even though there is an explicit commitment to follow up and take action for these notifications by users of inappropriate advertising placement. The petitioner notes that he has evidence of these advertisements in the form of screenshots, as well as his actions taken to flag these and he argues that Google does not take action to remove these ads from controversial online environments. Furthermore, he argues that it is not in advertisers (clients of Google) to have their ads placed in a controversial online environment and that the advertisement contracts they conclude with Google explicitly commit the latter not to place ads in such online environments. The petitioner provides a hypothetical example where German exporters using Google’s advertising placement service would be negatively affected were their advertisement be placed next to Nazi and racist online content. The petitioner calls on the EU to notify the affected advertisers of Google’s practices in this respect, so that they can start court cases against Google and get compensated with sums even exceeding several tens of billions of Euros. The petitioner calls for any potential explanation of Google pointing to a lack of human resources due to the Covid-19 pandemic to be resolutely rejected, pointing to a lack of credibility substantiated by the record profits achieved by Google during the pandemic. The petitioner calls on the EU to make an example out of Google: to ban it from the EU CM\1253504EN.docx EN PE731.464v01-00 United in diversity EN Single Market as an extremist organisation, to inform African, Asian and African-American organisations that Google places advertisements in racist online environments. The petitioner calls on the EU to levy fines of several tens of billions of Euros on Google, in case it would not be banned from operating in the EU and stresses that this practice of Google is most likely to be replicated in other language editions of, for example, its video sharing site. 2. Admissibility Declared admissible on 17 January 2022. Information requested from Commission under Rule 227(6). 3. Commission reply, received on 30 March 2022 The Commission’s observations The Commission takes note of the important role online advertising plays in shaping information flows. It is an essential tool for legitimate businesses to make their offers known to interested consumers. It is also an important revenue stream for a multitude of online businesses, including a wide-range of website and app owners, covering many sectors, from journalistic websites, to online games, online stores, or individuals’ blogs. At the same time, the Commission is carefully monitoring the illegal practices related to online advertising, as well as the misuse and exploitation of advertising by ill-intended players. The petitioner is pointing to cases where legitimate online ads are placed next to presumably illegal content. The Commission is aware of practices where online advertising is exploited by ill-intended players to draw monetary gains. They offer advertising space on their websites to drive advertising revenue, or publish content on online platforms and monetise it through ads. To maximise their revenue, they attempt to maximise the attractiveness of their content. While, in itself, this is legitimate behaviour, this sequence of incentives has also been observed to drive disinformation campaigns, where websites present misleading information for example on elections, as well as in the publication of divisive and sometimes illegal hate speech. The Commission’s proposal for the Digital Services Act1 includes clear obligations on online platforms to tackle these concerns. In particular, for very large online platforms, which are de facto public spaces for the dissemination of information, the proposal will require service providers to assess the risks they po

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