The Rundown: Google creates new policy to prevent advertisers, creators from making money off of climate misinformation

Illustration of camels walking in a desert.

Misinformation about climate change — i.e. “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change” — will not be monetizable under a new Google policy for advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators. Per the company, the new policy comes at the request of advertisers who say they don’t want their ads running next to that climate change denial content and publishers who say they don’t want their content running next to climate change denial ads.

The key details: 

  • Content that refers to “climate change as a hoax or a scam, [makes] claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change” will be affected. Content that does so will no longer be monetized. Advertising that does so will no longer be run across Google’s ads network. 
  • The company did not share data on the scope of the issue but did say that once enforcement of the policy begins it would have a clearer picture. Enforcement of the new policy will begin in 30 days for publishers and creators and 60 days for advertisers. 
  • Google will use AI and human review to enforce the policy against “violating publisher content, Google-served ads, and YouTube videos that are monetizing via YouTube’s Partner Program.” Monetized content will be evaluated to differentiate between “content that states a false claim as fact versus content that reports on or discusses that claim.”
  • Organic content does not apply. At the same time, monetized content on other climate-related topics such as public debates about climate policy, the impact of climate change and new research on climate change will still be able to be monetized. As for organic content, YouTube has its own policies in place to reduce the spread of misinformation and point consumers to authoritative content through search results and context panels.

The first step

Advertisers and agency execs see Google’s policy change as a move in the right direction for the company. “This is a great step forward and a welcome change,” said Joshua Lowcock, chief digital and innovation officer at UM, adding that the news comes on the heels of a recent report from IPG Mediabrands on the acceleration of misinformation and the danger that poses for advertisers. “I hope this sets a precedent for other companies and ad tech partners to follow,” he said.

Agency execs say that advertisers, as well as agency talent and leadership, have been increasingly concerned about climate change misinformation online and the impact it can have.

“Climate change is too important to take a backseat,” said Luis Di Como, evp of global media at Unilever in a statement. “At Unilever, we believe that any content that seeks to deliberately mislead and misinform the public on climate change has no place on media platforms. Google’s new policy to prohibit the monetization of content that denies climate change is a welcome first step and we look forward to greater accountability and progress in this space.” 

Going further

Combating misinformation isn’t easy but starting with misinformation about climate change is likely a safe topic for the company to start with and then potentially expand the policy to other areas of misinformation, according to agency execs. “Ultimately every brand is different, but climate change is a pretty straightforward issue that most people believe in,” said one agency exec.

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