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Google lands in hot water for allegedly walking back on 2021 pledge: 'It's probably the tip of the iceberg'

"The tragedy of this is that all over social media, you can see tens of millions of Americans who think scientists are lying."

Google YouTube climate disinformation pledge

Photo Credit: iStock

A recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle blasted Google for apparently not fulfilling its 2021 pledge to stop putting ads on content that spreads climate disinformation. This policy was put in place so that those spreading this false information would no longer be able to make money off of it on Google platforms, including YouTube. 

Despite its pledge, a new report from the Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) coalition shows that Google has failed to enforce its policy to demonetize YouTube videos that contain climate disinformation. Two hundred of the videos in question collectively have close to 75 million views, with 18 million coming from videos that meet Google's own definition of climate disinformation. 

That's tens of millions of viewers potentially accepting this disinformation, which has become extremely widespread and is wreaking havoc on progress toward a cleaner, cooler, and healthier future for all of us. Such disinformation is often allowed to continue because it's profitable

Businesses often opt for views over the truth, despite their pledges to help the environment. Ads on these videos were often for major brands and businesses like Costco, Nike, and big dirty energy companies like ExxonMobil. Big oil companies have been found to be among the biggest perpetrators of greenwashing.

Greenwashing is when a company makes misleading or entirely false claims about the environmental benefits of a product or practice, and it has become frighteningly common. Google's claim that they are removing harmful ads when, in fact, they're not, is a classic example. 

Callum Hood, the head of research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told The New York Times, "It really begs the question about what Google's current level of enforcement is … I think it's fair to say it's probably the tip of the iceberg."

Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University, told PBS that "the tragedy of this is that all over social media, you can see tens of millions of Americans who think scientists are lying, even about things that have been proven for decades."

Claire Atkin, a co-founder of the advocacy group Check My Ads, warned that "when someone posts a video to YouTube, they have the opportunity to make a full salary on disinformation."

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