Activists urge YouTube to tackle climate change misinformation

It's time to detox the algorithm, they say.

Power plant with smoke and dirty orange air

A report from the non-profit organization, Avaaz, seeks to change how YouTube handles climate change content and the misinformation surrounding it. The report, titled "Why Is YouTube Broadcasting Climate Misinformation To Millions?" refers to widely watched videos by Richard Lindzen who claims carbon dioxide emissions are not a "dominant factor [in climate change]."

In its report, Avaaz stated that it found at least 108 brands running their ads on climate change misinformation clips and added that these videos have received at least 21.1 million views altogether.

Avaaz's campaign director, Fadi Quran, shared the report on Twitter and added several of his own thoughts. While it is true that YouTube has indeed created incredible content and given millions of people a chance to flourish on its platform, Quran wrote that "the challenge is that as we face the sixth mass extinction, much more needs to be done." And that begins, he wrote, with "#DetoxingTheAlgorithm."

Cleansing the system — "We lay out in the report what Detoxing The Algorithm would take," Quran tweeted. "It simply means that YouTube invest more in identifying disinformation and misinformation, and when videos are flagged, they extract them from the recommendation algorithm. Freedom of speech does not equal to freedom of reach."

Nip the faux news in the bud — It would be a collaborative effort, Quran wrote. This means that YouTube and Google should join forces and provide independent and impartial researchers access to their metrics, show where exactly the falsehoods are stemming from, and just how far they've reached people.

Pressure on advertisers — In addition to that, the Avaaz campaign director wrote that ad spenders like Apple, Unilever, Go Daddy, and Expedia have an ethical obligation to "pressure [YouTube] to demonetize misinformation."

Avaaz concludes with a rather succinct explanation as to why it is crucial that YouTube corrects its record. "Together, civil society, advertisers, and social media platforms can create a healthy information environment where freedom of expression is respected," Avaaz researchers wrote, "communities are not manipulated by faulty algorithms and misinformation, and fair access to information is guaranteed."

"Given the challenges facing our democracies," they added, "our planet, and our economies, it is vital that we act now." The ball is now in YouTube's court.