YouTube has been “actively promoting” videos containing misinformation about climate change through a feature that determines what users watch for 70 percent of the time they spend on the platform, according to a report released Thursday. The nonprofit activist group Avaaz examined 5,537 videos that appear by search terms such as “climate change,” “global warming,” and “climate manipulation.” The group subsequently found that for each of those terms respectively, eight percent, 16 percent, and 21 percent of the top 100 related videos featured in the “up next” sidebar contained false information about climate change, such as denying it exists or claiming that humans are not to blame for the crisis. “We’ve found that it’s very likely that at least one in five users who search for a term like global warming or climate change could be sent down this type of misinformation rabbit hole,” said Fadi Quran, a campaigns director at Avaaz. “Scientists are working so hard to educate people about the existential threat we face and YouTube is allowing bad actors among us the last word on this issue for many people.”
The “up next” feature has an algorithm that dictates recommendations, and it is designed to engage users and keep them on YouTube. Avaaz claims that the platform has still used these tactics despite announcing in January 2019 that it would curb “content that could misinform users in harmful ways,” including climate change denying videos.