Google, Major Ad Platforms Profit Off Climate Disinformation (And Fund It, Too)Half of Largest Climate Denial Sites Sell Ads Through Google
WASHINGTON – New research released today from the Dewey Square Group (DSG) exposes the extent to which advertising networks such as Google Ads and Yahoo Ads support and profit from websites that spread climate disinformation. In October of 2021, Google announced a new policy that prohibits climate disinformation content, but enforcement has proven lacking. This report shows that a year later, Google is still serving ads on climate disinformation sites and even remains a top vendor for them.
“We can’t solve the climate crisis if Google continues to enable and fund the sites that expose millions of people to climate denial,” said Erika Seiber, climate disinformation spokesperson from Friends of the Earth, a member of the Climate Action Against Disinformation coalition. “We have to stop this industry of opaque ad networks from propping up the dark corners of the internet. The DSG study is further proof that tech companies can’t be trusted to self-regulate. Google must stop amplifying and enabling advertising on disinformation sites that pollute conversations on the climate crisis.”
These findings come during Advertising Week, an advertising industry convening funded in part by Google and Amazon. Organizers estimate more than 10,000 participants will gather this week at one of the largest industry conventions around the globe.
Google has claimed in past documents they “have an important responsibility to our users and to the societies in which we operate to curb the efforts of those who aim to propagate false information on our platforms.” Yet the analysis conducted by DSG proves they are active participants in the spread of mis- and disinformation through their ad networks.
- Dewey Square Group analyzed the sources of advertisements on the top 113 websites that produce climate disinformation between October 2021 and September 2022 – sites that receive over 56 million weekly visits. Fox News and Breitbart top the list, followed by the Daily Wire, Gateway Pundit, and Epoch Times.
- The study found that nearly 80% of these sites displayed advertising from one or more major ad networks, including Google and Amazon.
- Google was the largest ad network used by climate disinformation sites, with 49% of outgoing US ad traffic on websites that accounted for 97.7% of the total projected weekly visits to websites in the dataset. Google’s display ad networks were present on the greatest number of these top climate disinformation sites, and were monetizing the largest share of ad clicks from them.
- If advertisers bought ads on these climate disinformation sites at an industry median price cost-per-click, then Google would potentially have pulled in $7.67 million in display advertising revenue over the past year from these sites.
- Despite efforts by ad platforms to portray themselves as “climate-friendly” and committed to the fight against disinformation, Dewey’s analysis provides evidence that major platforms directly help fund and profit from bad actors in the disinformation landscape.
Groups like SumOfUs and Global Disinformation Index are also hosting in person actions and releasing reports this week to highlight how the disinformation crisis is being fueled and monetized by ad tech platforms.
The report can be viewed in full here.
Communications Contact: Erika Seiber, [email protected]