Google is cracking down on digital ads that make false claims about climate change, or that are used to profit from such claims. The company hopes to limit revenue for climate change deniers and stop the spread of misinformation on its platforms.
In a post Thursday, the company said the new policy would also apply to YouTube, which just a week ago announced extensive vaccine disinformation measures.
“We have heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publishing partners who have expressed concerns about ads appearing alongside inaccurate claims about climate change, or feeding them,” Google said. They “do not want their ads to appear alongside such content.”
According to Google, publishers and creators of content on YouTube “do not want ads that feed these claims to appear on their sites or videos.”
The restrictions “will prohibit advertising with content that contradicts the consolidated scientific consensus on the existence and causes of climate change,” the post said.
In addition to addressing the concerns of publishers, the changes appear to be aimed at countering Internet influencers who benefit financially from YouTube video ads that feed on climate change denial theories.
The company said it would impose restrictions on materials that call climate change a fraud scheme, or that deny that greenhouse gas and human activity pollutants have contributed to long-term global warming.
Experts question the effectiveness of these changes.
“How will they determine what misinformation is (or in other words – lies), or what is simply incomplete or intentionally untrue information?” says Lisa Schipper, a social sciences researcher at the Institute for Environmental Change at Oxford University.
She cites as an example the images of clean energy extracted from solid energy companies. “In many ways, these kinds of ads that suggest another kind of truth can be even more harmful, as they look harmless, while serving to present the company as environmentally responsible,” says Ms. Schipper.
Google will use automated tools and analysts to enforce the policy that will take effect in November for publishers and creators of YouTube content, as well as in December for advertisers.
Advertisements with content related to related topics will continue to be allowed, such as public debates on climate policy.
However, such debates can be just as polarized, says Steve Smith, executive director of a climate research program at Oxford University.
“Misinformation is present in online discussions on topics such as low-carbon energy, or travel and food, as much as it exists in climate science,” said Mr Smith.
Google is one of the two dominant companies in the digital advertising industry worldwide, with $ 147 billion in advertising revenue last year. The second important company is Facebook, which bans advertisements used to spread misinformation, but does not have a concrete list of topics to include denying climate change.
Earlier this week, Google unveiled new options to help registered individuals contribute to reducing carbon pollution, including a search option that shows which flights have the lowest levels of pollution.
The misinformation and role that giant social media companies have in spreading it has become a major concern for many people. About 95% of Americans said misinformation is a problem when trying to get important information, according to a poll released Friday by the Pearson Institute and the Associated Press news agency and the NORC institute.
Facebook’s problem with misinformation came to the fore this week when Frances Haugen, a former data researcher who is now publicly denouncing, told lawmakers that the company knows its platform spreads misinformation but refuses to make changes that would hurt its profits.
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