Falling Short

Despite earlier promises, Google still allowed climate change denial ads

The company said it would halt ads and sponsored content spreading climate change misinformation by November 9.

A firefighter looks at a large forest fire in Porto Jofre, Pantanal, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, on S...

Back in October, Google made the welcome announcement that it would cease allowing “ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change,” giving itself a deadline of November 6 to remove those materials from spaces like Google Ads and YouTube. Well over a month has passed since that date, however, and the company is dragging its feet to fulfill its promises.

According to a survey from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, 95 out of 100 climate denialist posts featured via Google Ads remained up and accessible after the November 6 deadline. “Through its Ads service, Google was helping fund so-called journalism that claimed: climate change is not a threat, scientific facts around it are false, and that the real threat is the changes society will need to make to avoid climate catastrophe,” writes the CCDH.


Doing its job for them — Google confirmed to The Verge earlier today that it has “taken appropriate enforcement actions,” and removed the majority of these sites presented by the CCDH survey for content violations, although it’s hard to find much consolation in its response. After all, this is a job Google promised to do itself by six weeks ago, and it still is requiring name-and-shame tactics to get anything actually done on combatting climate change misinformation.

What ever could be the reason? — Of course, there’s a pretty simple, sad explanation for all this: “Our analysis found that the [worst denialist outlets] had generated up to $5.3 million in Google Ads revenue in just six months,” explains the CCDH. Despite the majority of the population understanding the objective severity of climate change, not to mention the businesses and creators who don’t want denialist ads popping up next to their content, Google is slow to move over a few million dollars.

What makes it even worse is that, when compared to the larger amounts of revenue the company generates, that’s peanuts. Google needed to move on this literally yesterday.