According to disinformation watchdog, a media outlet owned by Ben Shapiro paid Google to place ads on search pages asking whether the climate crisis was real.
The Daily Wire purchased ads for search terms such as “climate Change is a Hoax” or “Why is Climate Change Fake?” This meant that stories from Shapiro’s outlet appeared first when people searched these phrases.
These ads were sold by Google even though it had announced a new policy prohibiting ads that promote denial of climate crisis. Sundar Pichai (its CEO) stated publicly that when people search Google for information about climate change, they will show them authoritative information from sources such as the United Nations.
“Google’s hypocrisy is beyond boundaries,” stated Imran Ahmed, CEO, the US-based Center for Countering Digital Hate. This exclusive research was provided to the Guardian by Imran Ahmed. They’re selling climate deniers the right to spread misinformation.
Google spokesperson said that although they didn’t dispute the center’s findings regarding The Daily Wire, they would remove ads that promote climate denial or policy debate.
The Daily Wire did not respond to detailed questions regarding its Google Ad Buys.
Ahmed’s research team used a commercial analytics tool called Semrush to do its analysis. It shows search terms and Google phrases that brands advertise on and is used by many Fortune 500 businesses. Semrush also estimates the amount of money companies spend on digital marketing.
These estimates show that researchers estimate that The Daily Wire could spend as much as $60m to buy more than 150 Google search terms ads in the last two years. They also include various topics. These search terms also included phrases such as “argument for reparations”, Bill Gates population control, and “Why does george soros hate America”. More than a dozen search terms related to climate were also found.
Climate change is a hoax
Climate change is a fabrication
“Why is climate change a hoax?”
‘climate change debunk’
“The truth about wind turbines”
“Is global warming a fraud?”
“The climate change scam”
Google spokesperson did not comment on the estimate of spending.
The Daily Wire was the focus of the center because it is one of the most popular publishers on Facebook with engagement levels that sometimes exceed the combined digital reach for the New York Times and Washington Post.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate identified The Daily Wire as one of the top ten climate disinformation spreaders on Facebook in November 2021. It was also listed alongside other far-right outlets like Breitbart Newsmax, Newsmax, and the Western Journal. Shapiro’s outlet reported over $100m in revenue in 2021. It was funded with seed funding of $4.7m from Texas billionaire Farris Wiks.
According to the center’s latest research, it discovered multiple instances where The Daily Wire promoted climate crisis denial via its Google ads. People searched for “climate change debunk”, April 2022. One of the top results was an article by Shapiro, entitled “Debunking Climate Change Hysteria”.
Shapiro stated in the article, “You’ve heard climate change is going put an end to all of life on Earth; it puts civilization in existential danger.” These are lies.
Another Daily Wire ad, from last summer, linked the search term “climate changes a hoax” along with intentionally misspelled phrases such as “gobal warming hoax” and “climate shift hiax” to the outlet’s 2016 article “9 things you need to know about the climate change hoax”, in the Outlet falsely claimed that there is no evidence that the Earth had been warming in recent decades.
Google stated that this article was in accordance with its policy against climate denial content.
Google’s policies offer some flexibility. Its policy states that ads and monetization will be allowed on other topics related to climate. This includes public debates about climate policy, the various impacts of climate change and new research.
The Daily Wire paid Google last July to promote their story “Wind Turbines not only shred birds but are piling up in landfills”. This was whenever someone searched for “the truth about wind turbines”.
Shapiro’s outlet has promoted discredited theories on many topics. It bought an ad on the search term “george Floyd cause of death” last July. This linked to a Daily Wire article that stated that it was likely that George Floyd was killed by a fentanyl-overdose and not police violence. Recent Reuters fact-checks found no evidence for this claim.
The disinformation group said that Google doesn’t require you to be factually correct to influence people’s opinions. Ahmed stated that ninety-nine per cent of Google clicks are directed to the first page. “If you can be the first Google search result, you basically get to decide the truth.”
According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Daily Wire’s climate ads were particularly offensive because Google publically claims it has one of the best sustainability plans of any large tech company.
It will achieve its goal of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2030, ten times faster than Amazon. The company teamed up last year with the United Nations to offer people visuals and information panels that are short and easy to understand about the causes and consequences of climate change when they search the topic on Google.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate released a report last spring that found major climate polluters such as BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron were buying ads on Google searches like “net-zero”, “eco-friendly” and “ecosane”. This gave the impression that these companies were contributing to the climate crisis rather than helping to solve it.
Ahmed stated that The Daily Wire’s ad purchases seem to contradict Google’s promises to promote reliable information about the climate crisis. “Google has rules against their searches being used to spread misinformation. They should be enforcing these rules, even against people who have given them lots of money.”