From The Verge: YouTube has been recommending and serving ads against videos that feature denial of or misinformation about climate change, according to a new report. The identified videos had 21.1 million views between them and might be suggested to users after a search for “climate change,” “global warming,” or the conspiracy theory “climate manipulation.”
The study, from the nonprofit activist group Avaaz, found ads from 108 brands running on videos that contained climate change misinformation. Those brands included major companies like Samsung, Uber, Nintendo, Showtime, Harley Davidson, and Warner Bros. Ads for environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, appeared on the videos as well. Avaaz says 10 advertisers, including Samsung and the environmental groups, said they were unaware their ads appeared on these videos (the others didn’t respond).
The report also states that YouTube promotes these videos in its “up next” box, but the evidence is less clear-cut. In a statement emailed to The Verge, YouTube called into question the methodology of the report, which used an indirect method for assessing video recommendations, and said that its platform prioritizes “authoritative voices” on topics prone to misinformation, like climate change.
YouTube has long struggled to find a balance between maintaining an open platform and keeping its platform safe for both viewers and advertisers. In the past, companies have paused ad spending after learning that their commercials ran on videos that featured hate speech or comment sections with predatory remarks about children. This has led to YouTube placing stricter rules on creators, limiting what videos they can make money on, and changing its video promotion algorithms, such as to limit the spread of conspiracy theories.
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