In this article, we’ll look at the reasons behind Google’s continued monetization of climate misinformation on YouTube, despite their pledge not to sell ads on content that contradicts mainstream climate science.
- Google still monetizes videos promoting climate misinformation
- Report by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition exposes 200 such videos
- Videos violate Google’s own policy against climate disinformation
- Misleading content leads to delays in legitimate climate action
- Brands like Costco, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, and Hyundai have ads running on these videos
Google’s Broken Pledge on Climate Misinformation
In the past, Google had made a firm commitment to stop profiting from climate misinformation on YouTube.
However, recent findings have revealed that the company is still allowing ads to run on content that contradicts mainstream climate science.
This goes against their promise from over a year ago, highlighting a significant issue in their policy enforcement.
Google had pledged not to sell ads on content that denies the reality of climate change, which is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
This type of content goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its causes.
The Impact of Misleading Content on Climate Action
Misleading content on climate change can have detrimental effects on efforts to combat the crisis.
False information can lead to confusion and doubt among the general public, making it difficult for them to understand the urgency of the situation and the necessity of taking action.
The Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition, consisting of over 50 nonprofit organizations, recently published a report exposing the extent of the problem.
They found 100 different videos containing false information about climate change, on which Google had run ads.
These videos directly contradicted established scientific evidence on climate change, undermining the efforts of activists and policymakers working to address the issue.
Furthermore, the CAAD coalition advocates for a broader definition of disinformation, which would include deceptive content about how to tackle climate change.
This could encompass false arguments that nothing can be done to mitigate the crisis or ads promoting supposed solutions that are actually ineffective.
The report identified an additional 100 videos featuring this kind of content, which can delay legitimate climate action.
Violation of Google’s Policy Against Disinformation
The fact that Google is still running ads on videos containing climate misinformation is a clear violation of their own policy on disinformation.
The company had previously stated that their policy would “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.”
Despite this, The Verge found that one of the climate disinformation videos, which had been highlighted in the report for violating the policy, still ran with a preroll ad for a mosquito lamp.
This video was produced by The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank infamous for rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change.
The science on climate change is unambiguous; it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, leading to more frequent extreme weather events and rising sea levels that threaten coastal communities.
Brands Caught in the Misinformation Web
The ads running on YouTube videos containing climate misinformation are not limited to lesser-known brands.
High-profile companies like Costco, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, and Hyundai have all had their ads featured on videos promoting false information about climate change.
This raises concerns about the effectiveness of Google’s policy enforcement and the unintentional support of climate misinformation by major brands.
In total, the 200 YouTube videos analyzed in the CAAD coalition’s report had accumulated 73.8 million views as of April 17th, 2023.
These videos not only spread false information about climate change but also generate revenue for both the creators and Google through ad placements.
Although Google has placed a highlighted box under some of these videos, linking to a United Nations webpage explaining climate change, it is insufficient in addressing the issue.
In some cases, the disclaimer was missing altogether from videos containing misinformation, further undermining the credibility of Google’s efforts to combat climate disinformation.
The persistence of climate misinformation on YouTube and the continued monetization of this content indicate a failure on Google’s part to enforce its own policy against disinformation effectively.
This not only undermines the efforts to address climate change but also leads to the unintentional support of climate misinformation by major brands.
In response to these findings, Google has stated that they have reviewed the list of videos identified in the CAAD coalition’s report and removed ads from those that violate their policy against climate change denial.
Michael Aciman, a Google policy communications manager, acknowledged that their enforcement is not always perfect and that they are continually working to improve their systems for better detection and removal of policy-violating content.
However, even after Google’s response, The Verge discovered that a preroll ad for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was still being served on The Heartland Institute video page on YouTube.
This highlights the ongoing challenges Google faces in enforcing its policies and effectively combating climate misinformation on its platform.
To improve the situation and curb the spread of climate misinformation, Google needs to strengthen its policy enforcement and eliminate the financial incentives driving the creation and dissemination of misleading content.
In addition, brands must be more vigilant about where their ads are placed and ensure they are not inadvertently supporting content that contradicts scientific consensus on climate change.
Greater transparency in Google’s advertising and content moderation processes could help address this issue.
Opening up the “black box” of its advertising business would allow for better scrutiny and accountability, making it more difficult for climate misinformation to persist on the platform.
Ultimately, combating climate misinformation requires the joint efforts of tech companies like Google, advertisers, and the public.
By working together, they can help to create a more informed and engaged society, better equipped to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.