In October 2021, Google promised to stop placing ads next to content that denied the existence and causes of climate change, so that the authors of these false claims could no longer make money on its platforms, including including YouTube.
Yet if you recently clicked on a YouTube video titled Who is Leonardo DiCaprio?, you might have found claims that climate change is a hoax and the world is getting colder after a Paramount ad for the movie 80 for Brady. , with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno.
Before another video purporting to detail “how climate activists twist the evidence,” some users saw an ad for Alaska Airlines.
According to a coalition of environmental organizations and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, these are no exceptions. In a report released on Tuesday, researchers from these organizations accuse YouTube of continuing to profit from videos portraying climate change as a hoax or exaggeration.
They found 100 videos, viewed at least 18 million times in total, that violate Google’s policies. They found videos with ads for other big brands like Adobe, Costco, Calvin Klein and Politico. An advertisement for Google’s search engine even appeared before a video claiming that there was no scientific consensus on climate change.
“It really begs the question of what Google’s current level of enforcement is,” said Callum Hood, research manager at the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
According to the researchers, it is difficult to assess the extent of misinformation on YouTube because watching videos takes a lot of time and they have limited access to data, which forces them to do painstaking research on the platform at the time. keyword help. “I think it’s fair to say that this is probably the tip of the iceberg,” Hood added, referring to what they found.
Ms. Fonda, who heads a political action committee dedicated to fighting climate change, said in a statement that it was “odious that YouTube violates its own policy” by airing videos of climate pranks with ads , thus giving greater validity to the content as “the Earth burns”.
The New York Times found that ads for Grubhub, a food delivery service, repeatedly appeared before videos decrying the climate. A Grubhub spokesperson said the company is working with YouTube and other partners to “prevent Grubhub ads from appearing alongside content that promotes misinformation.”
Michael Aciman, spokesman for YouTube, said in a statement that the company allows “political debates or discussion of climate-related initiatives, but when the content goes so far as to deny climate change, it removes the advertisements shown on these videos.
Mr. Aciman added, “While we rigorously enforce this policy, our app is not always perfect and we are constantly working to improve our systems to better detect and remove content that violates the policy. That’s why we welcome feedback from third parties who think we’ve missed something.”
He added that YouTube had removed ads from several videos flagged by researchers, including one promoting 80 for Brady.
With misinformation having become a scourge online, YouTube has tried to balance its desire to be a platform open to diverse opinions with its interest in providing users with hard facts on important topics. In recent years, the platform has tackled 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, it explained that advertisers and publisher partners were increasingly uncomfortable about appearing alongside inaccurate content on the climate.
Google’s policies apply to content that calls climate change a hoax or scam, denies the long-term trend of global warming, or denies that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climatic changes.
Beneath some of the climate videos the researchers found – some with ads and some without – YouTube had a “context” box with authoritative information, signaling that it knew the videos contained false or false claims. at least disputed. “Climate change is a long-term change in temperatures and weather patterns, primarily caused by human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels,” writes YouTube, while linking to a United Nations site on the subject.
Research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Climate Action Against Disinformation, an international coalition of more than 50 environmental advocacy groups, suggests that YouTube has overlooked or ignored violent content. They identified 100 other videos that did not explicitly violate Google’s rules, but did meet a broader definition of climate misinformation that should also be covered.
“This demonstrates that YouTube is currently profiting from a much wider range of climate misinformation than is covered by its narrowly defined rules,” the report said.
The videos cited by the group come from a variety of sources, including experts, podcasters and advocacy groups.
It also includes industry giants like Exxon Mobil, which has been accused of “laundering” its contribution to carbon emissions, despite its videos not explicitly violating YouTube’s rules, and mainstream conservative media. like Fox News, whose videos have sometimes violated YouTube’s rules. In one, recently fired Fox anchor Tucker Carlson called the fight against climate change “a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to fetter the United States and the West and take their place as as a leader of the world”.
Exxon Mobil and Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The researchers found that almost all of the videos had ads, meaning YouTube was generating revenue from the content and, in some cases, may have paid the creators for the videos. The placement of advertisements is an automated process. Videos on the platform are often targeted to specific viewers, which means different users will see different ads before the same video plays.