Back in 2021, YouTube took a stand against running ads for major brands on videos regarding climate change denial or conspiracies. Now, a new report is shedding light on its parent company, Google, which has continued to profit from climate misinformation videos on the site.
The report claims that Google has continued to fund the climate denial industry and bring in ad revenue from related videos. It was conducted by the Climate Action Against Disinformation coalition and the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
It identified 200 monetized videos with climate misinformation that had accumulated more than 73.8 million views as of April 17th, 2023. With hundreds of videos uploaded to the site every minute, it’s likely there are even more than reported.
All 200 of the mentioned videos contained ads, and 100 were found to violate Google’s own narrow definition of climate denialism. YouTube’s own policy promises not to run ads on videos that contradict “authoritative scientific consensus on the existence of and causes behind climate change.”
YouTube did not stick by its word, with researchers discovering advertisements for household brands such as Costco and Tommy Hilfiger attached to videos with varied climate-based misinformation subject matter. YouTube tagged some videos with context boxes, showing that the company was aware that the content went against its own guidelines but continued to monetize them anyways.
The problem seems to stem from user-generated based content sites such as TikTok and YouTube that democratize access to information, allowing misinformation and conspiracies to flood the platforms. These sites also allow algorithms to dictate which videos are ad-friendly, which can cause many to slip through the cracks.
Although the platform celebrated its decision to double down and not gain any profit from such videos, after only two years, it looks like the company’s promise has fallen short. The report states that YouTube has demonetized eight of the 200 reported videos, equating to a measly 4 percent.
Recently, YouTube began introducing new policies on eating disorder content on the platform.