YouTube steers viewers to climate denial videos: US activist group

James Marshall
January 18, 2020

A new report from global activism nonprofit Avaaz reveals that YouTube's algorithms are running ads from major brands on climate-change misinformation videos.

"To ensure that YouTube is no longer amplifying risky content, the platform should extract all videos known to be misinformation from its algorithms, starting immediately with climate denial and climate misinformation videos", Avaaz said in its report. The organization says it analyzed over 5,000 videos by searching for key terms like "climate change" and "global warming" to find the top-related videos.

Sixteen percent of the top 100 videos served up in relation to the term "global warming" contained misinformation, with the top 10 of those averaging more than a million views each, according to Avaaz.

Avaaz also analyzed the ads running on these videos, which contain advertisements from big brands like Uber, L'Oreal, Lionsgate and Nintendo. In December, YouTube said that policy had been successful, driving down the average time spent by USA users watching recommended "borderline" content or harmful misinformation by 70%. "YouTube should start immediately with the option for advertisers to exclude their ads from videos with climate misinformation".

"YouTube's algorithm learns about users - what they watch and what gets them hooked - and it then presents and pushes them to them to keep them on the platform", Quran told Euronews.

Under YouTube's advertising business model, 55% of the advertising revenue from these adverts goes directly to the creator of this misinformation.

"These algorithms are redefining how we see the world.it cannot distinguish between good content and bad content, fact-based content, misinformation, and that can be abused by malicious actors". "They say all scientifically inaccurate information that causes harm is included under that policy-which should indicate that climate denial is part of it", he says.

In 2015, YouTube launched a campaign, #OursToLose, to "help change the way people discuss climate change". "We can't speak to Avaaz's methodology or results, and our recommendations systems are not created to filter or demote videos or channels based on specific perspectives".

In January 2019, responding to criticism over the platform's tendency to drive people towards more radical political and social viewpoints, YouTube announced that in the U.S.it would begin reducing recommendations of "borderline" content that pushed the limits of Community Guidelines on areas like hate speech, as well as "content that could misinform users in harmful ways-such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11".

"We prioritise authoritative voices for millions of news and information queries, and surface information panels on topics prone to misinformation - including climate change - to provide users with context alongside their content", YouTube said.

YouTube has previously introduced strict policies against anti-vaccination videos which they said were a "violation of YouTube's policy regarding risky or pernicious acts". But Avaaz also says YouTube shouldn't be the only one responsible for promoting this change.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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