Report Reveals YouTube Sows Division, Violates Google’s Climate Disinformation Ad Policy
WASHINGTON, LONDON – A report released today from the Climate Action Against Disinformation coalition found that Google has failed to systematically enforce its policy to demonetize YouTube videos that contain climate disinformation. In addition, Google’s policy exempts popular and prevalent misleading content that’s garnered millions of views.
- The 200 videos collected by researchers amount to over 73 million views — and counting.
- 100 videos were collected that break Google’s climate misinformation rules, amounting to at least 18 million views.
- 100 videos were collected that meet CAAD’s definition of climate disinformation but are exempted from Google’s narrow definition, receiving 55 million views.
- 8 videos in the dataset were demonetized by the end of the research process. The videos that remain monetized have collected at least 71 million views.
A spreadsheet with the 200 videos is available upon request, as are screenshots documenting ads on each video, though CAAD encourages journalists to search terms like “climate hoax” for themselves to replicate the report’s findings.
“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, “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. Tech companies make big promises on hate and misinformation because they know it’s hard to see if they’ve kept them. We need to force Google to open up the black box of its advertising business.”
CAAD calls on Google to enforce its definition against monetized climate disinformation, as well as consider adopting the coalition’s more comprehensive definition of climate disinformation to address content that engages in greenwashing, paltering, and attacks on climate solutions.
“Google is supporting the climate disinformation they say they want to stop,” said Erika Seiber, Climate Disinformation Spokesperson at Friends of the Earth, “Disinformation persists because it’s profitable, and Big Tech needs to remove that incentive. Their business model relies on user engagement at the expense of the truth. Since Big Tech can’t answer the call from researchers and advocates for full transparency and accountability, lawmakers need to mandate it.”
The report’s release follows the recent implementation of the Digital Services Act, in which the European Commission designated Google as a platform required to assess and report on algorithmic risks, in addition to 18 other companies including Meta and TikTok. They have 4 months to comply with critical accountability and transparency requirements set forth by the bill — placing greater urgency on companies to step up and take action on disinformation.
The following academic experts were not involved with the research but were given the brief in advance and are available for comment:
- Science historian Dr. Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor, researcher and author;
- Brown University’s Dr. J. Timmons Roberts, Discourses of Climate Delay co-author;
- Dr. John Cook of Monash U, founder of SkepticalScience and disinfo expert;
- Dr. Travis Coan of Exeter University, lead author on a study creating a taxonomy of false climate claims used to inform CAAD’s definition of climate disinformation.
The Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition is a growing and unprecedented effort of over 50 organizations committed to addressing the spread of climate disinformation through policy advocacy, research, and public pressure campaigns.
Erika Seiber, [email protected]
Ben Weich, [email protected]