In October 2021, Google pledged to stop placing ads next to content denying the existence and causes of climate change, so purveyors of false claims can no longer make money on its platforms, including YouTube.
However, if you recently clicked on a YouTube video titled “Who Is Leonardo DiCaprio,” you might have noticed that climate change is a A hoax and a slew of claims that the world is cooling off, starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno.
Some users saw an ad for Alaska Airlines ahead of another video that claimed to detail “how climate activists are distorting the evidence.”
These are not anomalies, according to a coalition of environmental groups and the Center Against Digital Hate.exist a report In a statement released Tuesday, researchers from the groups accused YouTube of continuing to profit from videos depicting climate change as hoaxes or exaggerations.
They found 100 videos, collectively viewed at least 18 million times, that violated Google’s own policies. They found videos with ads for other major brands like Adobe, Costco, Calvin Klein, and Politico. A Google search engine ad even popped up before a video claiming there was no scientific consensus on climate change.
“That really sidesteps the question of the level of enforcement at Google right now,” Callum Hood, research director at the Center Against Digital Hate, said in an interview.
Researchers say it is difficult to assess the full extent of misinformation on YouTube because watching videos is a time-consuming endeavor and their limited access to data leaves them to rely on painstakingly searching the platform with keywords. “I think it’s fair to say this is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Hood added, referring to their findings.
Ms. Fonda, who runs a political action committee dedicated to fighting climate change, said in a statement that “YouTube would violate its own policies” by showing climate hoax videos with ads to make content more effective while “the planet burning.”
“I’m appalled that an ad for one of my films appeared in one of the videos, and I want YouTube to stop this practice immediately,” Ms. Fonda said.
Ads for food delivery service Grubhub repeatedly appeared before climate denial videos, The New York Times found. A Grubhub spokeswoman said the company is working with YouTube and other partners to “prevent Grubhub ads from appearing alongside content that promotes misinformation.”
YouTube spokesman Michael Aciman said in a statement that the company allows “policy debate or discussion on climate-related initiatives, but when content crosses the line into climate change denial, we remove it from those videos.” advertise.”
He added that YouTube removed ads from several of the videos flagged by the researchers, including one promoting “80 for Brady.”
As misinformation becomes a bigger scourge online, YouTube is trying to balance its desire to be an open platform with its interest in providing users with factual proof on important topics. In recent years, the platform has cracked down on lies about the theft of the 2020 presidential election and false claims about vaccines.
In 2021, when the company changes its climate change rules, it says advertisers and publishing partners are increasingly reluctant to be associated with inaccurate climate content.
Google’s policy applies to content that calls climate change a hoax or a hoax, denies the long-term trend of warming, or denies that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity are causing climate change.
Under some of the climate videos the researchers found — some with ads, some without — YouTube had a “context” box containing authoritative information, indicating that it knew the videos contained false or at least controversial claims. “Climate change refers to long-term changes in temperature and weather patterns, primarily caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels,” YouTube wrote, also linking to United Nations website on this topic.
Research by the Center for Combating Digital Hate and Climate Action Against Disinformation, an international coalition of more than 50 environmental advocacy organizations, shows that YouTube ignores or ignores offending content. They identified another 100 videos that didn’t explicitly violate Google’s policies but fit the broader definition of climate disinformation and should also be included.
“This suggests that YouTube is currently profiting from a broader range of climate disinformation than is covered by its narrow policy,” the report said.
The group cited a variety of sources for the video, including experts, podcasters and advocacy groups.
They also include industry giants like ExxonMobil, which has been accused of “greenlaundering” its contributions to carbon emissions despite its videos not explicitly violating YouTube’s policies; and mainstream conservative outlets like Fox News, whose Videos do this sometimes. (In one article, Fox’s recently fired anchor Tucker Carlson dismissed the fight against climate change as “a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to hamstring the U.S. and the West and displace its world leadership.”)
Exxon and Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment
Nearly all of the videos had ads, the researchers found, meaning YouTube earns revenue from the content and, in some cases, may pay the creators of the videos. Ad serving is an automated process. The platform’s videos are often targeted to a specific audience, meaning different users see different ads before playing the same video.
After accumulating 1,000 subscribers and users watching 4,000 hours of video, creators can get paid from YouTube as members of the company’s Partner Program. It’s unclear how many of the videos about climate misinformation came from the project’s creators.
“What makes YouTube particularly dangerous is that they make money off of every video,” said Claire Atkin, co-founder of Check My Ads. “When someone posts this to Facebook, they don’t will make money, but when someone posts a video to YouTube, they have the opportunity to get paid their full salary through disinformation.”
YouTube, a powerful force for radicalizing people online, needs to work harder to manage content on its platform, she said. “They haven’t changed the fact that they’re still funding – not promoting, funds – Sponsoring climate change disinformation by sending advertisers is another proof of their incompetence. “