YouTube is banning alcohol, gambling, and politics from its ‘most prominent’ ad slot

YouTube will no longer be accepting ads relating to alcohol, gambling, politics, or “prescription drug terms” for its masthead ad slot, which appears at the top of the website and app, Axios first reported. Google told The Verge the limitations on what kind of ads can appear in this slot will help “lead to a better experience for users.”

The masthead slot is one of the first things users see when they open YouTube, so it’s understandable that keeping ads about drugs, alcohol, or gambling out of it would make YouTube more inclusive for everyone. As for politics, it could help the platform avoid controversies, like the one that arose when then-President Donald Trump purchased the slot for three days during the 2020 election.

According to YouTube’s ad support page, ads in the masthead slot can “drive massive reach or awareness,” but now that megaphone will no longer be available to people wanting to advertise in certain spaces. Google already provides a way for users to limit the number of alcohol and gambling-related ads they see on YouTube, and in theory the setting would’ve applied to the masthead ad — according to Google, last year the company changed the slot to show targeted ads, rather than ones that had been reserved for an entire day.

For years Google has tried to balance its policies to determine what it does and doesn’t show in ads — recently, it’s reined in ads that used hate speech as keywords, political misinformation, and conspiracy theories around COVID-19. As it’s worked to clean up what ads it puts in front of users, Google’s ads business has also increasingly come under scrutiny from lawmakers who believe it’s ripe for antitrust enforcement.

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