Major brands' ads are showing up on climate deniers' Youtube videos

Update: an earlier version of this article had the relationship between the ads and the videos reversed. We regret the error

Some of Youtube's most expensive advertising is being run against climate denial conspiracy videos, with ads from major brands like "Samsung, Uber, Nintendo, Showtime, Harley Davidson, and Warner Bros" as well as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund showing up on videos promoting conspiracy theories that deny climate change.

The nonprofit advocacy group Avaaz documented the placement of these ads, which appear climate denial videos produced by Fox News, Prageru, and other far-right organizations.

This is different from the traditional concerns over conspiracy theories and Youtube, which hold that Youtube's engagement-maximization algorithms are prone to recommending ever-more-extreme versions of the message that you're watching at any moment, leading up a smooth gradient from reasonable uncertainty to epistemological chaos in which the only truth is to be found at the feet of Alex Jones or the Daily Stormer.

By contrast, videos are attracting Youtube's most lucrative ads.

Advertisers currently have the option to prevent their ads from running on any videos that discuss climate change. But they don't have an option to only run on accurate videos about climate change — it's all or nothing. "A lot of brands want their ads on climate change videos. They're environmental organizations or do a lot for sustainability," Greenberg says. "They don't want ads running on videos that have factually inaccurate information, and that's not available to them."

YouTube advertisers blindsided by climate change denial videos [Jacob Kastrenakes/The Verge]