Google has decided not to run any ads alongside content that "contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change".
The decision impacts YouTube, advertisers, and publishers. It appears to be primarily a matter of commerce, rather than conscience: the adtech strangler vine has framed the decision as a change to its ads and monetization policy.
"In recent years, we've heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change," states Google's missive. "Advertisers simply don't want their ads to appear next to this content. And publishers and creators don't want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos."
Hence the new policy, which will bar ads appearing on content that suggests climate change is a hoax, scam, or denies that human activity contributes. Ads suggesting any of the above will also be banned.
Google says it will "look carefully at the context in which claims are made, differentiating between content that states a false claim as fact, versus content that reports on or discusses that claim.
"We will also continue to allow ads and monetization on other climate-related topics, including public debates on climate policy, the varying impacts of climate change, new research and more."
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Google stated it has "consulted authoritative sources on the topic of climate science, including experts who have contributed to United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports" to help frame its policies.
Their recommendations will be applied using "a combination of automated tools and human review" to assess content and ads.
But Google hasn't explained how the assessment process will work.
The Register expects it will need to, and quickly, as reaction to the change we've seen on social media has already criticised Google's stance as another example of Big Tech effectively becoming the arbiter of acceptable public speech.
Here's another point of view.
The best thing Google could do for climate change is shut down its data centers.— PhotonTurtle 🐢 (@ThePhotonTurtle) October 7, 2021
Others have pointed out that Google has profited from such content for years.
It's also easy to find supportive sentiment about the change.
One thing is certain: this change will spark weeks of culture war arguments that will make lots of heat but very little light and change almost nobody's opinions. ®