The tech giant is reportedly still running ads on climate disinformation content, despite policies against it.
Google is still profiting from content that promotes climate change misinformation despite promising not to do so, a new report claims.
YouTube, the tech giant’s video-sharing platform, states in its policy that ads are not permitted on videos “contradicting authoritative scientific consensus on the existence of and causes behind climate change”.
Yet researchers identified 200 climate disinformation videos carrying ads - including 100 with climate denial content. Together, these had amassed almost 74 million views as of 17 April 2023. They featured ads for brands including Costco, Politico, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike and Hyundai.
The study by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) claims that YouTube’s narrow definition of climate disinformation could be allowing even more to slip through the net.
What do the climate disinformation videos say?
To compile the report, researchers scanned YouTube for terms like “climate scam” and “climate hoax”. They compared the results to both Google and CAAD’s climate disinformation definitions.
Content ranged from denial of climate science to other forms of climate disinformation. One video stated that “Every single model [the IPCC] ever have put out is wrong.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations. Its reports are developed by hundreds of the world’s top scientists and are subject to approval by government delegations, fulfilling YouTube’s requirement for “authoritative scientific consensus”.
Another video claimed that “In summary, there is no link between CO2 and temperature.”
Scientists have shown a clear link between carbon dioxide (CO2) and global warming.
The planet’s average temperature has risen by 1.1C since pre-industrial levels. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere soared by 48 per cent between 1750 to 2020. Like glass in a greenhouse, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases trap the sun’s heat, causing less warmth to return to space.
Yet another video said that “Climate hysteria is just another rebrand, a Trojan horse for anti-white anti-Western communist tyranny.”
A recent report from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue showed that wording like this is being used to delay and muddy essential policy on climate change action, without addressing the science behind it.
Google still advertises on climate denial articles, researchers claim
In October 2021, Google rolled out a global climate misinformation policy across all of its monetised products.
The tech giant said it would ban “ads for, and monetisation of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.”
As the CAAD and CCDH research shows, the enforcement of this ban is not always effective.
Google has repeatedly broken its promise not to profit from ads on climate denial content, CCDH researchers claim.
They found that 63 per cent of popular climate denial articles still carry Google ads.
It also found that Google allowed American conservative news website Daily Wire to run ads on searches for “climate change is a hoax”.
Meanwhile, YouTube videos promoting climate denial with millions of views still have advertising.
Euronews Green reached out to Google for comment on the study but they had not replied at the time of publishing.
What counts as climate misinformation?
Typically, climate misinformation and disinformation refer to deceptive or misleading content that undermines the existence and impacts of climate change, in line with IPCC scientific consensus.
It may also refer to the denial of human influence on global warming and the need for urgent action on climate change.
Misleading content often misrepresents scientific data, including by omission or cherry-picking information, in order to erode trust in climate science and solutions.
Videos like this also sometimes falsely claim something is supportive of climate goals when it is actually contributing to global warming.
CAAD says that YouTube’s definition of climate misinformation and disinformation is too narrow.
“We need more robust, coordinated and proactive strategies to deal with the scale of the threat to platforms,” CAAD states.
It calls on both governments and tech platforms to create legislation and strong policies to acknowledge and prevent climate disinformation.