Google Doesn’t Enforce Its Climate Disinformation Policy

Google talks a big game when it comes to climate disinformation. However, the company does not enforce its policy on demonetizing misleading and abjectly false YouTube videos. Researchers for Climate Action Against Disinformation identified 200 videos with climate disinformation, and they have received 73 million views. Google only demonetized eight videos by the end of the research process, but the remaining monetized videos have at least 71 million views.

“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, in a statement.

The tests researchers discovered that 63 percent of popular denial articles carry Google ads. Researchers also found that YouTube videos promoting climate denial with millions of views have ads. The videos either denied climate change outright or contained other climate disinformation. In October 2021, Google announced a new monetization policy that prohibited ads, and their monetization, that “contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” 

Climate Disinformation Abounds on YouTube

The videos the researchers collected show that Google’s climate disinformation policy means little more than words to Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company. A hundred videos researchers found violate Google’s policy, with at least 18 million views. They contained ads for brands including Costco, Politico, and Tommy Hilfiger. The videos had the following claims:

  •  “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.”

A hundred videos that meet CAAD’s definition of climate disinformation received 55 million views. They ran ads from brands including Nike, Hyundai, and Emirates. A video by Natural Allies for Clean Energy claimed that “Clean, reliable U.S. natural gas is the key to reducing global emissions and reaching our climate goals.” A video with John Stossel claimed, “Myth number three is that because of climate change, hurricanes are getting worse.”

“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,” said Hood. “We need to force Google to open up the black box of its advertising business.”

How Google Can Stop Climate Disinformation

The report released by CAAD researchers recommends ways that YouTube can stop profiting from climate disinformation. Google can start by enforcing its own policy. Platforms talk the big game by releasing policies. A platform’s policy means nothing if it is not enforced. Google allows climate disinformation–from Google Search ads, Google ads embedded in climate change denial articles, and climate denial videos on YouTube. 

Even if Google enforced its policy, it wouldn’t be enough. The policy only “covers just part of the broader category of climate disinformation,” according to the report. CAAD recommends that Google incorporate its full definition of climate disinformation into its policy. In addition to enforcing its policy and expanding it, the report recommends that the company stop monetizing climate denial content on YouTube. The company splits revenue with many of the channels containing climate denial content, which means that Google profits from climate disinformation. 

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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