Is YouTube's Algorithm Partly Responsible For Climate Change Denial?

For many reasons, YouTube is an amazing website that’s made many things possible. As one of the biggest websites available to the public today, it’s become one of the most populated internet go-tos. There, you can follow your favorite artists and musicians, watch amusing and funny videos and even start your own professional career.

With that in mind however, the website’s algorithm can still be a real pain. In fact, it may have contributed to some of the disbelief some people have with climate change.  According to a recent study, searching on YouTube for information about climate change, specifically back in 2015, might have given you a rather warped view of climate science. In fact, it may have given you, along with countless others, false information regarding the state of our planet under climate change.

It also didn’t help since that specific year had some really troubling incidents. For one thing, it’s the worst year on record when it comes to wildfires in the U.S. That same year also saw Pope Francis asking for rich countries to help fight off climate change. Coincidentally, it was also the year where our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels crossed  400 parts per million on average for the first time in over 800,000 years.

YouTube’s algorithm didn’t help that year either, giving users various videos that’s not related to climate science at all. Worse, the ones that are related view on climate science in a negative light, adding to the problem.

“Searching YouTube for climate-science and climate-engineering-related terms finds fewer than half of the videos represent mainstream scientific views. It’s alarming to find that the majority of videos propagate conspiracy theories about climate science and technology,” said study author Dr. Joachim Allgaier, senior researcher at the  RWTH  Aachen University in Germany. Per the study, the algorithm is also partly responsible for the rise of white supremacist, the anti-vax movement and the increasing number of Flat Earthers, with videos providing false information often getting more views than the ones that are credible and fact-checked.

Following this, a spokesperson from YouTube said that the company will be putting in more effort to promote more videos that are credible.

“Over the last year we’ve worked to better surface credible news sources across our site for people searching for news-related topics,” said the spokesperson.

YouTube logo A new survey finds that most facial plastic surgeons have used YouTube to help educate themselves on new surgical techniques. Esther Vargas, CC BY-2.0