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Climate disinformation still rakes in cash on social networks like YouTube

An image of YouTube's logo of a red "play" button floats on a blue and purple background
Image Credit: Unsplash/Alexander Shavlov

YouTube still has a climate disinformation problem.

While Google has announced plans to demonetize videos that contain climate disinformation, YouTube is still running ads on videos that are misleading or wrong on climate science and have millions of views.

That means some individuals and organizations are still making money from climate denialism, according to a new report from the group Climate Action Against Disinformation.

The report found that 200 videos containing climate misinformation collected by researchers had over 73 million views. Another 100 videos with 18 million views clearly broke Google's climate misinformation rules, according to the organization.

“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.”

While these organizations aren't arguing that the videos should be de-platformed, they are saying that Google shouldn't be making money off of climate denialism or be supporting climate deniers with ad revenues.

“Google is supporting the climate disinformation they say they want to stop,” said Erika Seiber, Climate Disinformation Spokesperson at Friends of the Earth.

Under new European Commission regulations, Google (along with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp owner Meta, and TikTok) need to assess and report on algorithmic risks -- including platforming and boosting climate disinformation.

“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,” Seiber said in a statement.

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