Breaking News
Get 40% Off 0
👀 Reveal Warren Buffett's stock picks that are beating the S&P 500 by +174.3% Get 40% Off

Graphic pro-Israel ads make their way into children’s video games

Published Oct 30, 2023 06:05AM ET Updated Oct 30, 2023 05:52PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
4/4 © Reuters. Maria Julia Assis (not pictured), supervises her son, whilst he plays a video game on his mobile phone after he was interrupted by a graphic pro-Israel advert, at their home in London, Britain, October 20, 2023. REUTERS/Hannah McKay 2/4
 
AMZN
+2.08%
Add to/Remove from Watchlist
Add to Watchlist
Add Position

Position added successfully to:

Please name your holdings portfolio
 

By Raphael Satter, Katie Paul and Sheila Dang

(Reuters) - Maria Julia Assis was sitting down to a meal in her terraced home in north London when her 6-year-old son ran into the dining room, his face pale.

    The puzzle game on his Android phone had been interrupted by a video showing Hamas militants, terrified Israeli families and blurred graphic footage. Over a black screen, a message from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the first grader: "WE WILL MAKE SURE THAT THOSE WHO HARM US PAY A HEAVY PRICE."

    Assis, a 28-year-old barista from Brazil, said that the ad left her son shaken and she quickly deleted the game.

    "He was shocked," she said in a telephone interview last week. "He literally said, 'What is this bloody ad doing in my game?'"

Reuters has not been able to establish how the ad came to her son's video game, but her family isn't alone. The news agency has documented at least five other cases across Europe where the same pro-Israel video, which carried footage of rocket attacks, a fiery explosion, and masked gunmen, was shown to gamers, including several children.

    In at least one case, the ads were played inside the popular "Angry Birds" game made by SEGA-owned developer Rovio.

Rovio confirmed that "somehow these ads with disturbing content have in error made it through to our game" and were now being blocked manually. Spokesperson Lotta Backlund did not provide details on which of its "dozen or so ad partners" had supplied it with the ad.

    Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' head of digital, David Saranga, confirmed that the video was a government-promoted ad but said he had "no idea" how it ended up inside various games.

    He said the footage was part of a larger advocacy drive by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which has spent $1.5 million on internet ads since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on civilians in southern Israel ignited war in Gaza. He said officials had specifically instructed advertisers "to block it for people under 18".

Saranga defended the graphic nature of the ad campaign.

    "We want the world to understand that what happened here in Israel," he said. "It's a massacre."

Reuters contacted 43 advertising firms that Rovio listed on its website as "third-party data partners" to try to ascertain who placed the ad in the games.

Of those partners, 12 responded, including Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Index Exchange and Pinterest (NYSE:PINS), and said they were not responsible for the ad appearing on Angry Birds.

Saranga said the ministry had spent money with ad companies including Taboola, Outbrain, Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)'s Google and X, formerly known as Twitter. Taboola and Outbrain said they had nothing to do with the gaming ads.

Google ran more than 90 ads for the foreign ministry but declined to comment on where it displayed those ads. X, formerly known as Twitter, didn't respond to requests for comment.

    Reuters found no evidence of an analogous Palestinian digital advertising effort, save for a few Arabic-language videos promoted by West Bank-based Palestine TV, a news agency affiliated with the Palestinian Authority.

    A representative from the Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry shared a statement saying the ministry was working to sway public opinion by sharing evidence of suffering in Gaza under the Israeli bombardment that followed the Oct. 7 attack, but did not say whether it was using advertising as a tool.

Representatives from Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs Gaza, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment about its media campaigns.

    Reuters documented six cases – in Britain, France, Austria, Germany and Holland – where people had seen the same or similar ads as Assis' son or said their children had seen them. In the Assis family's case, the ads appeared in a game called "Alice's Mergeland" made by a developer called LazyDog Game. Other ads appeared on family-friendly digital pastimes such as the block-building game "Stack," puzzle game "Balls'n Ropes," "Solitaire: Card Game 2023," and run-and-jump adventure "Subway Surfers."

Alexandra Marginean, a 24-year-old intern living in Munich said she was surprised to see the pro-Israel video pop up in the middle of her game of Solitaire.

    "I had a very aggressive reaction to it," Marginean said.

LazyDog Game did not respond to requests for comment. Stack's Ubisoft-owned developer Ketchapp, Solitaire's Austrian developer nerByte, Balls'n Ropes' Turkish developer Rollic and Subway Surfers' Danish developer SYBO Games also did not return messages seeking comment on the ads.

    Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet's Google, which police the apps on their in-house software platforms for iPhones and Android phones, respectively, referred questions back to the games' developers.

Rules on advertisements vary by country, but in Britain - where Assis and her son live - it's the Advertising Standards Authority that monitors publicity campaigns. The authority said that while it was not currently investigating any ads from the Israeli government, in general any publicity should avoid "overly graphic" images and that such footage should be "carefully targeted away from under-18s."

Graphic pro-Israel ads make their way into children’s video games
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.
  • Any comment you publish, together with your investing.com profile, will be public on investing.com and may be indexed and available through third party search engines, such as Google.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (3)
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Oct 30, 2023 8:25AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
A 6 year-old with an Android phone? Maybe Maria Julia Cassis should consider her parenting techniques.
Meru Pet
Meru Pet Oct 30, 2023 8:17AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
What is this bloody ad doing in my game?: it was ok, when they wanted to spread woke concepts
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Oct 30, 2023 8:17AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Who is "they"?
Meru Pet
Meru Pet Oct 30, 2023 8:07AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
think of the children 🙄
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email