Google, YouTube announce plan to demonetize ‘climate denial’ content

Two major social media and tech platforms — YouTube and Google — have announced they will demonetize any content that downplays or denies climate change.

The two companies made their announcements on Thursday, adopting the strictest censorship policies regarding the issue of climate change among the major tech platforms, Axios reported.

Under the policies, Google advertisers and publishers, in addition to YouTube content creators, will not be allowed to earn ad revenue from content that refutes “well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change,” according to the company’s ad division noted in a statement.

“This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change,” the policy continued.

The companies said that advertising and monetization will still be permitted to run on content featuring climate-related topics including policy discussions and debate, the impacts of climate change, and new research into the issue. However, it’s not yet clear if new research that disproves or refutes “scientific consensus” will be monetized.

Google, which purchased YouTube in October 2006 for $1.65 billion, said that some advertisers were complaining that their ads were running alongside climate denialism content.

“In recent years, we’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” the company said.

“Advertisers simply don’t want their ads to appear next to this content. And publishers and creators don’t want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos,” said the company.

While Google often adjusts policies for advertising as a means of reducing “misinformation,” Axios reported that “this update is notable” nonetheless, “given how hard it can be to characterize certain commentary about climate change as denialism or misinformation.”

In its announcement, Google said the company will evaluate content as it pertains to the new policy by looking “carefully at the context in which claims are made, differentiating between content that states a false claim as fact, versus content that reports on or discusses that claim.”

Google says its ad policy team has been in consultation with experts including members of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports to help craft the new rules. A recent report determined that there is “unequivocal evidence showing that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global warming.”

The moves by Google and YouTube come after Facebook expanded an online portal in February to push back on climate misinformation.

Its Climate Science Information Center, which was first launched in September, “steers users to the site when they search for climate-related terms. Changes and additions include,” Axios reported separately.

However, according to The New York Times, Facebook does not have an explicit policy to demonetize so-called ‘climate denialism.’

The policy changes at the other big tech platforms come as environmental groups have also been pressuring them to crack down on what they see as incorrect climate information, reports added.

Jon Dougherty


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