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Photo by Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

Google and YouTube on Thursday announced a new policy that prohibits climate deniers from being able to monetize their content on its platforms via ads or creator payments.

Why it matters: It's one of the most aggressive measures any major tech platform has taken to combat climate change misinformation.

Details: Google advertisers and publishers, as well as YouTube creators, will be prohibited from making ad revenue off content that contradicts "well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change," the company's ads team said in a statement.

  • "This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, 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."
  • Ads and monetization will still be allowed to run alongside other climate-related topics, like public debates on climate policy, impacts of climate change, and new research around the issue.

Google said it's making these changes in response to frustration from advertisers and content creators about their messages appearing alongside climate denialism.

  • "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," the company said.

Yes, but: Google often makes changes to its ads policies to reduce misinformation, but this update is notable, given how hard it can be to characterize certain commentary about climate change as denialism or misinformation.

  • The tech giant says that when evaluating content against the new policy, "we’ll 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."
  • The company says it has consulted with experts, like representatives of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports, to create the policy. The report found that there is "unequivocal" evidence showing that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global warming."
  • Google says it will use a combination of automated tools and human review to enforce the new policy.

The big picture: Internet companies have been under increased pressure from climate activists to do more to address climate change denial on their platforms.

  • Google on Wednesday unveiled a suite of new tools that give consumers more information so they can choose to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In February, Facebook expanded an online portal meant to counter misinformation about climate change.

Why it matters: Social media platforms have immense reach, and they've come under fire from activists and some lawmakers globally for doing too little to thwart the spread of inaccurate content.

What to watch: Google will begin enforcing the new policy next month.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 15, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Earth's climate went off the rails in 2021, reports show

Temperature departures from average in degrees Celsius during 2021. (Berkeley Earth).

Global warming became local to a new and devastating extent in 2021, with the year ranking as the sixth-warmest on record, according to new, independent data from NASA, NOAA and Berkeley Earth.

Why it matters: Each year's data adds to the relentless long-term trend, which shows rapid warming due overwhelmingly to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions during the past several decades in particular.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden's latest Fed pick signals brewing climate battles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's plan to tap Sarah Bloom Raskin as top banking regulator at the Federal Reserve could intensify the central bank's already growing focus on climate change.

Catch up fast: The news broke Thursday night that Biden will nominate Raskin, a Duke University law professor, for the powerful role of vice chair for supervision.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 14, 2022 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Tech giants play the blame game

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With regulators around the world looking at reining in Big Tech, the companies in the crosshairs are increasingly eager to point out their rivals' sins.

Why it matters: Investigations in the U.S. and around the world are targeting Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. To make their case, regulators need to show the companies are squelching competition — a task the tech companies may be aiding with their infighting.