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Google Pledged to Remove Ads From Climate Denial Sites, but Many Still Run

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Researchers found ads placed by Google on sites that falsely call global warming a hoax. The revenue those sites earn from the ads can fund further misinformation.

New research underscores how Google has struggled to rein in even blatant examples of climate denialism, experts said.
Credit…Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ahead of last month’s United Nations global climate summit, Google, the world’s biggest provider of ads online, made a big announcement: It would stop placing ads on sites that deny the scientific consensus on climate change.

Banned from profiting from its advertising program, Google said, were sites and videos falsely referring to global warming as a hoax or a scam. Also no longer welcome to run Google ads: Content falsely claiming that greenhouse gas emissions, or human activity, do not contribute to climate change.

But new research shows that Google’s policy has had limited effect so far.

As of Wednesday, ads placed by Google were still running on scores of articles, including ones on major right-wing sites like Breitbart, that falsely called global warming a hoax and described the United Nations climate conference last month as “a gigantic eco-fascist gaslighting operation.” In reality, diplomats from nearly 200 countries struck a major agreement to intensify efforts to fight the serious hazards posed by a hotter planet.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit group based in London, said on Thursday that it had counted at least 50 new climate denial articles on 14 different sites, all published after Nov. 9, when Google’s new policy was to have taken effect. An earlier report by the center’s researchers found that 10 of the most prominent publishers of climate denial content had received nearly 1.1 billion visits in the six months before the climate conference.

That’s a concern because the ad revenue that these denial sites earn by running Google ads then helps to fund more denial content, said Imran Ahmed, the center’s chief executive. “The more ad revenue they get, the more they can pump out articles and they can get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible,” he said.

In fact, Google’s business model, to maximize its reach on the internet and to use personal data and algorithms to optimize ad placements, had made it “a major route for the monetization of malignant content, whether it’s vaccine denial, identity-based hate, climate denial,” Mr. Ahmed said.

Michael Aciman, a spokesman for Google, said the company had reviewed the pages in question and had taken “appropriate enforcement actions.” Early on Thursday, Breitbart climate denial articles that had displayed ads placed by Google were no longer displaying them.

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“When we find content that crosses the line from policy debate to promoting climate change denial, we stop serving ads on that page or site,” Mr. Aciman said.

The findings underscore how Google has struggled to rein in even blatant examples of climate denialism, experts said. The company’s latest pledge was triggered by mounting pressure on Google to stop monetizing the worst examples of online climate denial.

Understand the Lastest News on Climate Change

“There’s no ambiguity that these pages are out of sync with mainstream climate science,” said John Cook, an assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, whose research encompasses using machine learning to identify climate misinformation. “They shouldn’t be difficult to blacklist.”

And even though much of the rest of the world has moved on from more blatant forms of climate denialism, the United States has remained particularly vulnerable, Dr. Cook said. “There are parts of the country where science denial is still flourishing, and those tend to be the markets for these types of web pages,” he said. “Climate misinformation confuses and polarizes the public, delays climate action and reduces trust in scientists.”

Google, whose parent company is Alphabet, has also come under pressure to counter election-related misinformation across its platforms, which include the video sharing site YouTube.

Google has said that it is using a mix of automated detection and human review to evaluate content, including YouTube videos. It normally disables ads on a page-by-page level, though egregious or persistent violations can trigger action against an entire site. Publishers have the option of appealing a decision or addressing their violations and applying for reinstatement.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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