A new report finds that Google has failed to systematically enforce its policy to demonetise YouTube videos that contain climate disinformation and have garnered millions of views
A new report shed light on Google-owned YouTube’s failure to uphold its own policy to demonetise videos spreading climate disinformation. According to the report by the Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition and Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), despite Google’s own policy, misleading content that garnered millions of views on YouTube continues to be exempted.
The report indicated that out of 200 videos analysed, 100 violated Google’s own climate misinformation policy, resulting in at least 18 million views. Furthermore, 100 videos contained climate disinformation that did not fall under Google’s narrow definition, but met CAAD’s definition of climate disinformation, receiving a staggering 55 million views. Despite the policy violation, only eight videos were demonetised, while the remaining monetised videos have amassed at least 71 million views containing misleading information about climate change.
According to YouTube’s policies, ads are not permitted on videos “contradicting authoritative scientific consensus on the existence of and causes behind climate change”. However, researchers identified 100 videos breaching this policy as mentioned above. They included claims like, “Every single model [the IPCC] ever have put out is wrong”, “In summary, there is no link between CO2 and temperature”, “Climate hysteria is just another rebrand, a Trojan horse for anti-white anti- Western communist tyranny”, etc. These videos also carried ads for brands including Costco, Politico and Tommy Hilfiger.
“Despite Google’s green grandstanding, its ads continue to fuel the climate denial industry,” said Callum Hood, Head of Research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “Whether it’s taking cash to target users with climate disinformation, or running ads that make climate denial content profitable, the company is selling out. Tech companies make big promises on hate and misinformation because they know it’s hard to see if they’ve kept them. We need to force Google to open up the black box of its advertising business.”
The report followed a stream of research that showed that Google has repeatedly broken its promise not to profit from ads on climate denial content. A recent CCDH study found that 63% of popular climate denial articles still carry Google ads, while the Daily Wire was permitted to run ads on searches for “climate change is a hoax.”
In addition, the report came after the European Commission’s recent announcement of 19 online platforms, including Google, now being under the scope of Digital Services Act. This move imposes new obligations on Google, and it has a deadline of four months to fulfil them. As a result, there is increased pressure on Google to take prompt action.
Experts said the Big Tech business model relies on user engagement at the expense of the truth. Disinformation persists because it’s profitable and that incentive needs to be removed. Experts added that since Big Tech can’t answer the call from researchers and advocates for full transparency and accountability, lawmakers need to mandate it.
The report called on Google to enforce its pledge of not profiting from climate denial on all of its advertising platforms, including YouTube, and to broaden its policy to address other widespread forms of climate disinformation, like addressing content that engages in greenwashing, paltering, and attacks on climate solutions.