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Google lovade att ta bort annonser från webbplatser för klimatförnekande, men många körs fortfarande



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 reklam- 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.

“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.

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“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.


Google ska betala $391,5 miljoner för uppgörelse över platsspårning, säger statliga AG:er


Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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