YouTube Profiting off ‘New’ Climate Denial, Report Says
According to a new report from nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), YouTube is making millions annually from advertisements on channels that put forth inaccurate climate change information, reported Reuters.
Content creators on some of its channels are using strategies that elude the platform’s misinformation policies.
“In this report, for the first time, researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate have quantified the startling and important rise over the past five years in what we call ‘New Denial’ — the departure from rejection of anthropogenic climate change, to attacks on climate science and scientists, and rhetoric seeking to undermine confidence in solutions to climate change,” CCDH founder Imran Ahmed wrote in The New Climate Denial report. “‘New Denial’ claims now constitute 70% of all climate denial claims made on YouTube, up from 35% six years ago.”
CCDH looked at 12,058 video transcripts on nearly 100 YouTube channels from the last six years using artificial intelligence, Reuters said.
According to the report, the content promoted by the channels undercut the scientific consensus that human actions are contributing to lasting changes in weather patterns and temperatures. This is a shift from previous claims denying the existence of global heating or that greenhouse gas emissions from humans burning fossil fuels are not the cause.
Google’s climate change policy prohibits videos supporting climate denial claims from making advertising profits.
The CCDH study suggests climate deniers have shifted the focus of their argument because denouncing climate change is not as plausible anymore, NBC News reported
“A new front has opened up in this battle,” Ahmed said, as reported by NBC News. “They’ve gone from saying climate change isn’t happening to now saying: ‘Hey, climate change is happening, but there is no hope. There are no solutions.’”
CCDH said advertisements on the YouTube channels examined in the report are potentially making as much as $13.4 million annually for the platform, Reuters reported.
The AI tool used by CCDH in its analysis, CARDS — Computer-Assisted Recognition of climate change Denial and Skepticism — can differentiate between inaccurate information and “reasonable skepticism,” Reuters said.
YouTube defended its policy in a statement.
“Our climate change policy prohibits ads from running on content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change. Debate or discussions of climate change topics, including around public policy or research, is allowed,” a spokesperson from YouTube said, as reported by The Guardian. “However, when content crosses the line to climate change denial, we stop showing ads on those videos. We also display information panels under relevant videos to provide additional information on climate change and context from third parties.”
CCDH challenged YouTube to update its climate change policy.
“It is hypocritical for social media companies to claim to be green but then monetise and amplify lies about the climate,” Ahmed said, as The Guardian reported. “It is time for digital platforms to put their money where their mouth is. They should refuse to amplify or monetise cynical climate denial content that undermines faith in our collective capacity to solve humanity’s most pressing challenge.”