2. Big Tech's effort to go green
The last few days have made something pretty clear: Big Tech is getting greener — but that's not keeping it out of climate advocates' crosshairs.
Driving the news: New data shows that Google was the global leader in corporate renewable energy procurement last year, signing contracts for 2.7 gigawatts of capacity, Axios' Ben Geman writes.
- The next 3 biggest buyers were Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, per the research firm BloombergNEF's report Tuesday.
- It's merely the latest evidence that tech giants are looking to act aggressively on climate and clean energy.
- This month Microsoft also rolled out a suite of new policies — including a pledge to be carbon-negative by 2030. Amazon toughened its plans in late 2019.
But, but, but: Even as major tech companies announce new green ambitions — and evince existing ones — they're facing heightened pressure to walk the walk when it comes to their products and clients.
What's happening: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor, who heads the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, this week urged Google to curb false climate information on its hugely popular YouTube subsidiary. She called for steps including:
- Removing climate "denial" and "disinformation" from YouTube's recommendation algorithm.
- No longer allowing users to monetize videos that "promote harmful misinformation and falsehoods" about climate.
Also this week, hundreds of Amazon employees, defying communications rules, put their names on statements criticizing Amazon policies on climate (among other topics).
Context: Amazon joins Google and Microsoft in coming under criticism from both their own employee and outside critics — including Sen. Bernie Sanders — for offering sophisticated computing services tailored to help oil companies assess and extract resources.
The bottom line: Tech companies have some of the corporate world's most aggressive climate targets and programs. But this is hardly inoculating them against criticism.
Catch up fast: Castor's letter cites a report this month by the activist group Avaaz which alleges YouTube is "driving millions of people to watch climate misinformation" daily.
- One finding is that when users search for "global warming," 16% of the top 100 "related videos" in the "up next" feature had climate disinformation.
- Another is that major brands are often unaware that their ads run on these videos.
The other side: A YouTube spokesperson said the company has "significantly invested in reducing recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, and raising up authoritative voices."
- The spokesperson also said YouTube's ad policies give advertisers "tools to opt out of content that doesn’t align with their brand."