YouTube Profiting From The 'New Climate Denial'

YouTube reportedly makes millions of dollars annually from advertising on channels that the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) says makes false claims about climate change as content creators find new ways to evade the social media platform's policies to combat misinformation.

The report -- published Tuesday by the CCDH -- says the creators used artificial intelligence (AI) to review transcripts from 12,058 videos during the past six years on 96 of YouTube channels that promoted content.

Google disagrees. “Our climate change policy prohibits ads from running on content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change," a Google spokesperson told Media Daily News via email. "Debate or discussions of climate change topics, including around public policy or research, is allowed."

But when content crosses the line to climate change denial, the ad platform stops serving ads alongside YouTube videos. The company said it also displays information panels under relevant videos to provide additional information on climate change and context from third parties.

The content, according to the CCDH, undermines scientific consensus on climate change that human behavior is contributing to long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns.

The CCDH is a nonprofit organization with the stated goal to “protect human rights and civil liberties” by holding social-media companies accountable.

YouTube is potentially making generating up to $13.4 million annually in ad revenue from channels studied in this report, according to the CCDH.

"Thirteen million dollars is a drop in the bucket for Google, one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in history – but has an outsized impact on the future of our planet," the report states. "They should expand their definition of climate denial to include “New Denial.” and other platforms should follow suit."

YouTube's parent company, Google, has policies that should prevent advertising money from being generated by content that rejects the scientific consensus about the existence and causes of climate change.

Imran Ahmed, CEO for the Center for Countering Digital Hate, called the policies ineffective in the introduction of the report. 

The organization analyzed the arguments used in more than 12,000 YouTube videos from 96 channels published from January 2018 through September 2023. The content was believed to feature information around climate change denial, such as videos from Blaze TV, a conservative media channel, and the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank.

The research notes the denials in the past five years have shifted. Where they once concentrated on comments such as “global warming is not happening or that human-generated greenhouse gasses are not causing global warming,” they now focus on the “impacts of global warming are beneficial or harmless, that climate solutions won’t work or that climate science and the climate movement are unreliable.”

The report gives the example that the Blaze TV's YouTube channel has transitioned from old to new denial rhetoric such as "Climate change as a conspiracy."

CCDH's AI model processed YouTube transcripts to identify whether particular climate denial themes were present. Independent evaluators were used to check text in the transcripts, then graded the model’s for accuracy. The evaluators reported finding claims about 78% of the time. 

Update:  The story was updated with a comment from a Google spokesperson. 

2 comments about "YouTube Profiting From The 'New Climate Denial'".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, January 16, 2024 at 8:27 p.m.

    CCDH is wrong has no facts or proof just bias that doesn't fit their narrative is all. It isn't up to YouTube to censor content about Climate if they believe in climate change or not it is the eye of the beholder about climate change. Siecence field agrees on climate change harms thing is a lot just pick and choose when it comes to siecence to fit whatever they agree with and wants to end the debate. I believe in climate change doing the little things help but when it comes the warming I just don't think you can do anything about it truth be told I guess those that are hardcore would sau I'm climate denier.    

  2. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, January 17, 2024 at 6:44 a.m.

    No one who uses the Center for Digital Hate as a source should be taken seriously as a journalist. 

    Meanwhile: ALL the planets in our solar system are warming. Why might that be? 

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