Report München


Online ad banners of German Companies on extremist sites Programmatic advertising is funding islamist and terror groups

Big German companies and government institutions find their ad-banners close to hate and extremist content. That is the result of ARD report München, the political program on German public broadcaster ARD.

Stand: 14.02.2018

Onlne-Werbung auf extremistischen Seiten | Bild: BR

Ad-banners of the German Postbank appear on a website with a jihadist chat. Ad-banners of the shoe manufacturer Buffalo are placed on jihadist web-pages as well as the ad-banner of the eyewear-manufacturer Fielmann and the optical manufacturer Zeiss. Even the Bavarian State Government is praising an ad for a citizen poll, “2030, BAVARIA, YOUR FUTURE” on websites with islamist content.

These cases are not isolated the journalists of German public broadcaster ARD for political magazine report München found out. The German reporters have been looking for online-advertising-banners from German companies and institutions on pages that call for a fight against Christians and Jews, demand the murder of homosexuals and propagate Sharia law.

German companies and institutions confronted with the research results had no clue!

“Postbank distances itself explicitly ... ."
"We at Buffalo are shocked "..."
"I never would have agreed to that. You are welcome to quote that,"
says a Bavarian Mazda-dealer as well as Mazda Germany.

For the Bavarian Government this is "absolutely unacceptable." They put the blame on "Google Display Network" that controls the advertising. The Bavarian Government had “neither knowledge nor influence” of the placement of its own web-banners.

Asia´s leading online brand and content monitoring company Sipi-IP, normally providing its global services for business companies this time assisted a journalistic research. The IT-team at Sipi´s New Delhi office checked illicit websites with German ad-banners and provided an ad-tracker analysis.

"There are a lot of hate-websites and I use the term broadly, including Jihadi, terrorism sites. All of them have websites and those websites feature advertising. So, you have a perfect storm here. Because: Advertising is the backbone of the internet."

Bharat Dube, founder of Sipi-IP

Smaller sites generate an income of five to ten thousand US-Dollars a year, Bharat Dube knows. “But many of the larger sites that have a lot of traffic are making millions of US Dollars.” These revenues also fund terror networks. Like the Arrahmah-network security experts address to Muhammad Jibril Abdul Rahman, an Indonesian terrorist sentenced for funding the suicide bombings 2009 in Indonesia´s capital Jakarta. Although media reports already claimed income to the very terror network through ad-banners from international brands in 2016, the German journalists now discover German online-ads from Postbank, Mazda Germany, Volvo Germany, Trivago among others. The difference:  The Arrahmah sites have just moved to other domains to avoid being blocked.

Bharat Dube is astonished that “the Arrahmah jihadi website is still up and about. It has linkages to four other websites all of them featuring advertising revenue.”

European Union Security Commissioner Julian King wants online ad-companies to strengthen efforts against illicit sites immediately

"You are citing some bad examples. I am afraid there are still bad examples out there. That is why we need to make that extra effort with the platforms, to crack down on this material."

Julian King, European Union Security Commissioner

Brandstock-lawyer Alexander Gaul based in Munich, Germany, knows the problem quite well from other criminal activity online: counterfeit and IP-infringement. The reporters show him illicit sites with online-advertising live:

"Indirectly, Vodafone is funding a piracy-site here. We'd like to see you put more manpower in here to program the algorithm so that you do not expose ads to those sites in advance."

Alexander Gaul, Brandstock-lawyer

Google tells ARD political magazine report Munich: Content guidelines would forbid that extremist websites are publishers of online ads. Individual cases Google does not want to comment, though.

The Bavarian State Government has acted immediately and had its online-ad on the islamist web-page blocked. But individual actions are not enough security experts fear. “Clearly there is something broken with the system. Fines should be imposed in my view. At the end of the day this is all a game about money. Without imposing sanctions on the multiple players that are enabling this, the problem unfortunately is going to continue”, Dube Bharat predicts.