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YouTube blocks ads on climate change denial videos

Advertisers don't want their products linked to anti-science videos.

Climate activists hold a banner after climbing atop the roof of the entrance of the building and others line the pavement at ground level as they protest outside the UK office of Youtube during the tenth day of demonstrations by the climate change action group Extinction Rebellion, in London, on October 16, 2019. - Activists from the environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion vowed Wednesday to challenge a blanket protest ban imposed by the London police. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|October 7, 2021 5:32 PM

YouTube's reduced tolerance for misinformation now extends to climate science. The Google service has enacted a new policy barring ads and monetization for content that contradicts the "well-established scientific consensus" surrounding climate change, including videos that claim climate change is a hoax or reject the human link to global warming. YouTube will start enforcing the policy in November.

The company stressed that it would allow ads for videos discussing those bogus claims as well as other climate-related subjects, such as the exact degree of human impact or debates on climate policy. YouTube is basing its judgments on "authoritative" expertise, including contributors to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The firm wasn't shy about the reasoning for the move: advertisers just don't want their ads linked to climate change denial material, and creators don't want those ads on their pages. YouTube is concerned it could lose business, and dropping monetization for bogus science is an easy way to prevent that loss.

This effort stops short of banning climate change denial, although that's not surprising. Unlike anti-vaccine misinformation, climate change denial doesn't carry the risk of short-term harm. YouTube can keep the content visible for the sake of debate and expression without worrying that it will directly lead to illness. This won't stop science deniers from moving to other platforms or using their videos to peddle products like books, but it might discourage 'casual' attempts to profit from climate misinformation.