Google punishes commercial partners who flout ‘scientific consensus’

If you don’t express the correct views on climate change then Google doesn’t want to do business with you, according to new policies.

“…we’re announcing a new monetization policy for Google advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators that will prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change,” announced the Google Ads bulletin.

“This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.” It continued. So if you want to make money via Google platforms you’re now banned from even expressing scepticism on matters it considers beyond dispute.

The slippery slope isn’t always a fallacy and it’s easy to extrapolate the precedent set by these new rules to some pretty dark places. If it’s consensus on climate change today, what might it be tomorrow? And who decides what constitutes ‘consensus’? Are all fringe views soon to be declared beyond the pale?

It should be stressed that this isn’t censorship in the strict sense of the word. People are still free to express scepticism about supposed climate change consensus on Google platforms, they just won’t get ads served next to such claims. While we don’t agree with the decision, we have to concede Google’s commercial right to optimise its services for advertisers. Of course, for card-carrying authoritarians this doesn’t go nearly far enough and only the outright censorship of all speech they don’t like will do.

But the broader concerns moves like this raise are significant. Claimed scientific consensus is increasingly being used as a justification for varying degrees of censorship and as Panahi (who is a Sky News Australia presenter) highlighted above, there is precedent for arbitrary censorship by internet giants on purely political grounds.

While we have seen no evidence to suggest this is anything other than a commercial decision by Google, it’s funny how often the needs of its advertisers coincide with those of the establishment. There is mounting evidence of that same establishment seeking to pressure internet companies to censor stuff it doesn’t like, however, and claimed advertiser pressure is a great way for them to launder their acquiescence to such pressure.

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