A media outlet founded by conservative influencer Ben Shapiro paid Google to advertise on search pages questioning whether the climate crisis is real, according to new research from a disinformation watchdog group.
The Daily Wire bought ads on search terms over the past year such as “climate change is a hoax” and “why is climate change fake”, meaning that when people Googled these phrases, stories from Shapiro’s outlet were some of the first results that appeared, the research found.
Google [is] actually selling the right to climate deniers to spread disinformation
Google sold these ads even after announcing a new policy in October 2021 prohibiting ads that promote climate crisis denial. Its CEO, Sundar Pichai, publicly stated at the time that “when people come to Google Search with questions about climate change, we’ll show authoritative information from sources like the United Nations”.
“Google’s hypocrisy knows no bounds,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the US and UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate, which provided its research exclusively to the Guardian. “They’re actually selling the right to climate deniers to spread disinformation.”
A spokesperson for Google didn’t contest the center’s new findings about the Daily Wire but said that “when we find content that crosses the line from policy debate or a discussion of green initiatives to promoting outright climate change denial, we remove those ads”.
The Daily Wire didn’t respond to a list of detailed questions about its Google ad buys.
For its research, Ahmed’s organization relied upon a commercial analytics tool called Semrush, which is used by many Fortune 500 companies and shows the Google phrases and search terms that brands advertise on. Semrush also provides estimates of the dollar amounts companies are spending on digital marketing efforts.
Based on these estimates, researchers say that the Daily Wire could have spent almost as much as $60m on more than 150 Google search term ads over the past two years on various topics. These search term ads also included such phrases as “argument against reparations”, “bill gates population control”, and “why does george soros hate america”. More than a dozen of the search terms were climate-related, including:
“climate change is a hoax”
“climate change is a lie”
“why is climate change fake”
“climate change debunk”
“the real truth about wind turbines”
“is global warming a scam”