‘Google allowed climate hoax advertisements’

A study claims that paid adverts were allowed on searches that promoted climate denial

Big Zero Report 2023

Google accepted paid advertisements that called the climate crisis into question and spread disinformation.

That’s the claim of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which conducted research finding that the Daily Wire was able to purchase adverts for search queries such as “why is climate change fake?”

The study alleges that these search terms were sold despite Google’s announcement in October 2021 that it would no longer allow ads that promoted climate denial.

At the time, Sundar Pichai, CEO, said: “When people come to Google Search with questions about climate change, we’ll show authoritative information from sources like the United Nations.”

However, adverts were also accepted on search terms such as climate change is a “hoax,” “lie” and “scam.”

Google did not contest the findings of the study, however, a spokesperson said: “When we find content that crosses the line from policy debate or a discussion of green initiatives to promoting outright climate change denial, we remove those ads.”

In reporting the findings, the Guardian stated it had contacted the Daily Wire with detailed questions about the paid advertisements but was not met with a response.

To conduct the investigation, the Center for Countering Digital Hate used a tool called Semrush – which provides data on the Google searches that brands pay to advertise on, as well as an estimate of how much was spent.

It claims that in the last two years, around $60 million (£48.5m) was spent by the Daily Wire on more than 150 Google search terms, with more than a dozen of these being related to climate change.

The Center claimed in November 2021 that the Daily Wire was in the top ten spreaders of climate disinformation on Facebook.

Explaining the issue of paying for adverts on these terms, Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center, said: “Ninety-nine percent of Google clicks go to results on the first page. If you can be the first result on a Google search, you essentially get to set the truth.

“Google has rules against their search ads being used to spread disinformation, they should be enforcing them, even against people who give them lots of money.”

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