In one of the most aggressive measures by a tech or social media platform to clamp down on climate change misinformation, Google has announced a new policy prohibiting users from being able to monetise climate denial content on its platforms.
The policy covers both online ads and creator payments and will be enforced from November.
In a statement from Google Ads, the company says that it works closely with outside experts to regularly review and update policies both to satisfy the needs of brands as well as to protect users from unreliable claims such as anti-vaccine advocacy or fake cures.
“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 statement says.
“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.”
The new policy prohibits advertisers, publishers, and creators on YouTube from making any ad revenue from “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change”.
“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.”
Luis Di Como, Unilever’s executive vice president of global media, says that the consumer goods giant believes that any content that seeks to deliberately mislead and misinform the public on climate change has no place on media platforms.
“Google’s new policy to prohibit the monetisation of content that denies climate change is a welcome first step and we look forward to greater accountability and progress in this space.”
When evaluating content against the policy, Google will take context into account – for example, “differentiating between content that states a false claim as fact, versus content that reports on or discusses that claim”.
“We will also continue to allow ads and monetisation on other climate-related topics, including public debates on climate policy, the varying impacts of climate change, new research, and more,” the announcement states.
Enforcement will be by a mixture of automated tools and human review.
In making this policy change, Google says it has consulted authoritative sources on climate science, including experts who contributed to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment reports.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of humanity. Misinformation plays a huge part in holding back progress, so this action from Google matters,” say co-chairs of the Conscious Advertising Network, Harriet Kingaby and Jake Dubbins. “CAN is proud to partner with Google on the development of this policy.”
The new policy comes as Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a number of consumer initiatives to improve sustainability.
Google is rolling out new features to book flights or purchase appliances that have lower carbon footprints, a Nest program to support clean energy from home, and eco-friendly routing on Google Maps.
Further, when people search with questions about climate change, they will be directed to authoritative information from sources such as the United Nations, in addition to the existing news sources.
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