In October 2021, Google promised to stop placing ads alongside content denying the existence and causes of climate change, so that providers of false claims could no longer make money on their platforms, including YouTube.
And yet, if you recently clicked on a YouTube video titled “Who is Leonardo DiCaprio,” you may have come across a number of claims that climate change is a hoax and the world is getting colder after an announcement. from Paramount+ for the movie “80 for Brady.” starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno.
Before another video purporting to detail “how climate activists distort the evidence,” some users saw an ad for Alaska Airlines.
These are not aberrations, according to a coalition of environmental organizations and the Center to Counter Digital Hate. In a report Posted Tuesday, the organizations’ researchers accused YouTube of continuing to profit from videos depicting climate change as hoax or exaggeration.
They found 100 videos, viewed at least 18 million times in total, that violated Google’s own policy. They found videos accompanied by ads from other major brands like Adobe, Costco, Calvin Klein, and Politico. A Google search engine ad even appeared before a video claiming there was no scientific consensus on climate change.
“It really raises the question of what Google’s current level of compliance is,” Callum Hood, head of research at the Center to Counter Digital Hate, said in an interview.
It’s difficult to gauge the full extent of misinformation on YouTube, the researchers said, because watching videos is time-consuming work and they have limited access to data, forcing them to laboriously search the platform with keywords. “I think it’s fair to say it’s probably the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Hood added, referring to what they had found.
Ms Fonda, who heads a political action committee dedicated to combating climate change, said in a statement that it was “abhorrent that YouTube violated its own policy” by posting climate hoax videos with ads, giving the content greater validity while “The earth is burning.”
“I am horrified that an ad for one of my movies would appear in one of those videos, and I hope YouTube stops this practice immediately,” Fonda said.
Ads for Grubhub, the food delivery service, appeared before climate denial videos numerous times, The New York Times found. A Grubhub spokeswoman said the company was working with YouTube and other partners to “prevent Grubhub ads from appearing alongside content that promotes misinformation.”
Michael Aciman, a YouTube spokesman, said in a statement that the company allowed “policy debate or discussion of climate-related initiatives, but when content crosses the line of climate change denial, we remove ads from those.” videos”.
He added that YouTube removed ads from several videos that investigators flagged, including the one promoting “80 for Brady.”
As misinformation has become a major scourge online, YouTube has tried to balance its desire to be an open platform for diverse viewpoints with an interest in providing users with proven facts on important issues. In recent years, the platform cracked down on the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and false claims about vaccines.
In 2021, when the company changed its rules on climate change, he said advertisers and publishing partners were increasingly uncomfortable appearing alongside inaccurate weather content.
Google’s policy applies to content that refers to climate change as a hoax or scam, denies the long-term trend that the climate is warming, or denies that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity are contributing. to climate change.
Beneath some of the weather videos the researchers found, some with ads and some without, YouTube had a “context” box with authoritative information, indicating that it knew the videos made false or at least disputed claims. “Climate change refers to long-term changes in temperatures and weather patterns, caused primarily by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels,” YouTube wrote, while linking to a United Nations site in the subject.
Research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Climate Action Against Misinformation, an international coalition of more than 50 environmental advocacy groups, suggested that YouTube had overlooked or ignored infringing content. They identified another 100 videos that did not explicitly violate Google’s policies, but met a broader definition of climate misinformation that should also be covered.
“This demonstrates that YouTube is currently benefiting from a much broader range of climate misinformation than is covered by its narrowly defined policies,” the report said.
The videos the group cited came from a variety of sources, including experts, podcasters and advocacy groups.
They also included industry giants such as Exxon Mobil, which has been accused of “green laundering” its contribution to carbon emissions, even though its videos did not explicitly violate YouTube’s policies; and mainstream conservative outlets like Fox News, whose videos sometimes did. (In one, recently fired Fox host Tucker Carlson dismissed the fight against climate change as “a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to hinder the US and the West and take its place as world leader.”)
Exxon Mobil and Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The researchers found that almost all of the videos featured ads, which meant that YouTube was generating revenue from the content and, in some cases, may have paid creators for the videos. Ad placement is an automated process. Videos on the platform are often targeted to particular viewers, which means that different users will see different commercials before the same video plays.
Creators can receive compensation from YouTube as a member of the company’s partner program after they accumulate 1,000 subscribers and viewers watch 4,000 hours of their videos. It was not clear how many videos with wrong weather information were from creators on the show.
“What makes YouTube especially dangerous is that they profit per video,” said Claire Atkin, co-founder of Check My Ads, an advocacy group that studies online advertising and was not involved in the research. “When someone posts this information on Facebook, they don’t make money, but when someone posts a video on YouTube, they have the opportunity to earn a full salary off the misinformation.”
He said YouTube was a powerful force in radicalizing people online and needed to do more to control content on its platform. “The fact that they haven’t changed that, that they’re still funding, not promoting, money — sending advertisers to sponsor climate change misinformation is another point of proof of their ineptitude.”