It is far too easy to find misinformation about climate change online,Â as prominent social media channels such as YouTube continue to host huge amounts of such content. And according to a new report, in addition to these videos being pushed on viewers, major brands are having their ads placed on them.
NGO Avaaz has published a report examining the reasons why YouTube continues to have a problem broadcasting climate misinformation.Â The findings seem to show that YouTubeâ€™s recommendation algorithm provided climate misinformation videos free promotion and presented misinformation to millions who wouldnâ€™t have been exposed to it otherwise.
For example, when searching the term “global warming” 16% of the top 100 related videos included under the up-next feature presented misinformation about climate change. Similar outcomes were found when applied to the term â€śclimate changeâ€ť (8%) andÂ â€śclimate manipulationâ€ť (21%). Videos included such questionable titles as â€śActual Scientist: Climate Change is a Hoaxâ€ť and â€śCIA Whistleblower Speaks Out About Climate Engineering Vaccination Dangers and 911â€ť. Some videos evenÂ claimed that there was no evidence that CO2 emissions were the dominant factor in climate change.
A concern is if YouTube is incentivising climate misinformation content via its monetisation programme. WhenÂ an ad is shown on a YouTube video, the advertiser pays a fee, of which 55% goes to the video creator and the other 45% to YouTube.Â According to Avaaz, there were 108 brands running ads on the climate misinformation videos found via this method, One in five ads were from green or ethical brands as well as public entities, such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Ecosia, Save the Children, the German Interior Ministry, and Eureciclo. But Avaaz also found that 12.5% of the ads on the monetised videos were from household brandsÂ such as Aeromexico, Uber, Samsung, Decathlon, Lâ€™Oreal and, Harley Davidson, which appeared over five times, and sometimes more than 10 times.
Responding to the report’s findings,Â Greenpeace, WWF, Lâ€™Oreal, Samsung, Danone, Decathlon, Carrefour, Nikin, and Ecosia stated that they were unaware that their ads were accompanying climate misinformation videos.
Avaaz recommended several actions have to be taken by YouTube, such asÂ ending its free promotion of misinformation and disinformation videos by extracting such videos from YouTube’s algorithms and starting to include climate misinformation in its borderline content policy. The NGO alsoÂ suggested YouTube should add disinformation and misinformation to YouTubeâ€™s relevant monetisation policies, ensuring such content does not include advertising and is not financially incentivised. It urged YouTube to move immediately, providing theÂ option for advertisers to exclude their ads from videos with climate misinformation. Lastly, YouTube was advised in the report to work with independent fact-checkers to inform users who have seen or interacted with false or misleading information and issue corrections alongside the videos.