Google was accused last night of profiting from hatred.
In a devastating attack, MPs said the technology firm had totally failed to control offensive online content.
Its bosses were charged with breaking promises – made just days ago – to ensure neither the firm, nor extremists, cashed in on vile propaganda.
The Commons home affairs committee said it was astonishing that the second richest company on the planet had failed to take even the simplest steps to root out abuse.
The £482billion American firm suffered a further blow yesterday when ministers suspended all government advertising on its YouTube video-sharing platform.
The Cabinet Office said the ban would be lifted only when Google could all but guarantee public money would not fund hate-fuelled content.
Officials learnt that adverts for public bodies such as UK Aid and the Metropolitan Police had been running alongside YouTube videos containing extremist material.
Google hands a slice of the revenue generated by the adverts to the individuals – or groups – that post the content it features on.
Google executives were summoned to the Cabinet Office for a dressing-down following the investigation by the Times.
‘We want to hear what they are going to do to prevent this happening again,’ said the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.
‘We need to make sure they have the technical expertise to prevent our adverts appearing in the wrong places.’
As the backlash intensified, Group M – a firm which buys up advertising space on behalf of major brands – said it would ask its clients whether they wanted to pull advertising from YouTube.
It called for Google, which made £15.7billion in profits last year, to apologise. The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC have also halted their advertising with the firm.
On Tuesday Google executives assured the home affairs committee it would work harder to remove offensive material, and agreed with MPs that a video by neo-nazi group National Action should be removed.
She added: ‘Google is the second richest company on the planet. The lack of effort and social responsibility it is showing towards hate crime on YouTube is extremely troubling.’
During Tuesday’s select committee hearing, Mr Barron admitted the company had no one watching for offensive content. Instead it relies on users to report extreme material.
The firm makes the vast majority of its money from adverts, which it places using complex computer technology.
Those posting videos on YouTube take a cut of the advertising worth up to £6.15 for every 1,000 views, and many are watched millions of times.
According to marketing experts, extremists have made £250,000 from ads for household brands and government departments hosted on Google.
The search giant has earned around £120,000.
One of the biggest earning hate preachers is the Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim. Videos on his YouTube channel have netted him around £63,500. He is banned from visiting the UK.
Rob Norman of Group M said: ‘We believe Google owes two apologies, one to advertisers for compromising their brand reputations and the other to consumers for the presence of the content.’
Google’s UK boss Ronan Harris admitted in a blog published yesterday morning that the company ‘can and must do more’ to combat ‘bad advertising’, and said it had begun to review its systems.
He added: ‘With millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognise that we don’t always get it right.
‘In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetisation policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.’
Google and other technology companies do have some measures in place to try and remove child pornography from their websites.
They fund the Internet Watch Foundation, which seeks out offensive material.
However, it relies entirely on users to flag up other kinds of offensive content, which are then reviewed by Google staff.
They look at 98 per cent of the videos within 24 hours, and removed 92million videos from YouTube in 2015.
Miss Cooper told Google: ‘The committee expects to hear from you on how you are using some of YouTube’s very significant revenue to put this problem right by devoting sufficient resources to ensure that vile and illegal material is removed proactively from your platforms, and that neither you nor those that create these videos profit from hatred.