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Congress to Google: Stop incentivizing climate change misinformation on YouTube

The search giant has been accused of sending millions of people to climate denial videos every day.

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Google and CEO Sundar Pichai are once again being called out by Congress. 

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A congressional committee wants Google to take action against climate misinformation videos on YouTube. This comes after a report earlier this month alleged that the Google-owned platform sends millions of people to climate-denying videos on a daily basis. 

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida and chairperson of the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday regarding the report, which says YouTube's algorithm is sending people to climate denial videos that also receive ad revenue. She urges the company to stop promoting and monetizing these videos, and add climate misinformation to its list of "borderline content," similar to how the platform handled anti-vaccination videos

She asked Google for a response to her letter by Feb. 7. 

"YouTube has been driving millions of viewers to climate misinformation videos every day, a shocking revelation that runs contrary to Google's important missions of fighting misinformation and promoting climate action," Castor said in the letter. "In the past, YouTube has been proactive about responding to the threats posed by harmful misinformation shared on its platform. Just last year, for example, YouTube removed economic incentives for channels that promoted anti-vaccination views, arguing that such content violated YouTube's rules against monetizing videos with 'dangerous and harmful' content."

The report Castor referenced is from Avaaz, a nonprofit organization that focuses on various issues including climate change.  Released Jan. 17, the report says YouTube is "actively promoting climate misinformation to millions of users." Also, it says videos denying climate change have displayed ads from several well-known brands including Samsung as well as organizations such as Greenpeace International, World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children. The report says the companies weren't aware their ads were appearing alongside such content. 

YouTube does limit advertising on some videos, but climate change isn't considered a topic that goes against the site's guidelines on advertiser-friendly content.

Originally published Jan. 28, 7:31 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:34 a.m.: Adds background.