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How Climate Change Deniers Rise To the Top in Google Searches (nytimes.com) 359

If you searched for the words "climate change" into Google, until earlier this week, you could have gotten an unexpected result: ads that call global warming a hoax. "Scientists blast climate alarm," said one that appeared at the top of the search results page during a recent search, pointing to a website, DefyCCC, that asserted: "Nothing has been studied better and found more harmless than anthropogenic CO2 release." Another ad proclaimed: "The Global Warming Hoax -- Why the Science Isn't Settled," linking to a video containing unsupported assertions, including that there is no correlation between rising levels of greenhouse gases and higher global temperatures. These references were first reported by The New York Times (the link may be paywalled). From a report: America's technology giants have come under fire for their role in the spread of fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign, prompting promises from Google and others to crack down on sites that spread disinformation. Less scrutinized has been the way tech companies continue to provide a mass platform for the most extreme sites among those that use false or misleading science to reject the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Google's search page has become an especially contentious battleground between those who seek to educate the public on the established climate science and those who reject it. Not everyone who uses Google will see climate denial ads in their search results. Google's algorithms use search history and other data to tailor ads to the individual, something that is helping to create a highly partisan internet. A recent search for "climate change" or "global warming" from a Google account linked to a New York Times climate reporter did not return any denial ads. The top results were ads from environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. But when the same reporter searched for those terms using private browsing mode, which helps mask identity information from Google's algorithms, the ad for DefyCCC popped up.
[...] The climate denialist ads are an example of how contrarian groups can use the internet's largest automated advertising systems to their advantage, gaming the system to find a mass platform for false or misleading claims.

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How Climate Change Deniers Rise To the Top in Google Searches

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  • ""He who controls the medium controls the message. He who controls the message controls the masses."

    The NY Times hates competition.
    • by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @06:08PM (#55831199)

      The NY Times is a source of curated information.
      Google is an index of the internet. The internet is a cesspool. Google is an index of a cesspool.

      • 100% agree. But Google is still a competitor. In fact, it is their biggest one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "Google's search page has become an especially contentious battleground between those who seek to educate the public on the established climate science and those who reject it."

      I love the phrase, "established climate science". Feynman would have used it in a lecture.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )
        I really like this Feynman quote, too:

        It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

        • by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Saturday December 30, 2017 @03:21AM (#55833059)

          That quote is rather irrelevant, unless you've got a few spare Earths laying around to run experiments on..?

          Assuming you don't, our next best option is to model the data we have as accurately as possible and make predictions based on those models.

          So far all of the models predict "we're fucked if we don't change our ways" even if they don't all agree on how badly or how soon we're fucked, with some even suggesting we're past the point of changing our ways and fucked no matter what.

          There's a reason why the climate scientists (and yes, I feel justified using the generalized term!) report actual data generated from actual models while the deniers tend to go with things like opinion polls -- the deniers just don't have a whole lot of data to work with and much of what they do have is pretty questionable.

      • "Google's search page has become an especially contentious battleground between those who seek to educate the public on the established climate science and those who reject it."

        I love the phrase, "established climate science". Feynman would have used it in a lecture.

        I think it is pretty funny when climate science deniers try to use Feynman quotes to discredit climate science. I really doubt he'd be on your side in the issue. I think he'd ask you "Where is your evidence?" But I could be wrong.

    • "He who controls the medium controls the message. He who controls the message controls the masses."

      In this case Google is allowing each individual to "control" their own media. If the messages surrounding that individual are otherwise controlled, then that influence trends into Google's system. Such results in Google being "controlled" or influenced by sources outside of the user. This is the nature of the USA, for better or worse.
  • Capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @05:50PM (#55831049)

    Google is a for-profit advertising company. You say they present ads from people who pay them to do so? And they tailor your search results to make you think they're the best search engine so you look at more ads? Shocking.

    Either legislate unbiased search and advertising and give up the pretence of pure capitalism, or eat your dogfood and quit complaining.

    • Slashdot is a for-profit advertising company.
    • Either legislate unbiased search and advertising and give up the pretence of pure capitalism, or eat your dogfood and quit complaining.

      If being hypocritical and complaining gets you what you want, people will be hypocritical and complain.

  • by michaelcole ( 704646 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @05:53PM (#55831079)
    Every company uses "tech", so unless you're talking about buying buggy whips from the Amish, let's call a spade a spade.

    Advertising companies take money and spread lies. Get over it. Google does it on your searches. Facebook does it on your friendships.
  • In addition to already being an advertisement platform to sheep, this and more shocking news at 11.
  • Well played (Score:2, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 )

    The AGW zealots posted this right when everyone else is too busy shoveling global warming out of their driveways.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      That's when keeping the faith is most important. Any religious leader knows that.

    • Re:Well played (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @07:30PM (#55831623) Journal

      The AGW zealots posted this right when everyone else is too busy shoveling global warming out of their driveways.

      Global Warming -> Climate
      The stuff in your driveway -> Weather

      Learn the difference. That is all.

    • Re:Well played (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @07:52PM (#55831757)

      The AGW zealots posted this right when everyone else is too busy shoveling global warming out of their driveways.

      It sure reads like you don't understand the difference between climate change and the weather. The weather is going to become increasingly volatile which means you are going to get more extreme weather patterns (larger range of temperature) thus altering the climate. Ergo climate change. However, the overall temperature of the planet is still going to rise. Ergo global warming.

      Please educate yourself on this very important topic. [skepticalscience.com]

      • Yes! This article is to my knowledge the best concise description of the warming trend as well as increase in extreme temperatures:

        https://www.nytimes.com/intera... [nytimes.com]

        It should be noted that this is just data. No models, no predictions, just historical data.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      Get used to it. The arctic displacement that is becoming the new winter normal is a direct result of global warming. Lower differentials between the arctic and tropics means a weaker polar jet. A weaker polar jet means the arctic air it used to keep bottled up in the arctic can be pushed south by warm air masses.

      Take a look at a site like climate reanalyzer and check out the temperature anomalies. The cold blob over North America USED TO sit up in the arctic. But look what's up there now. Or look at the res

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @06:17PM (#55831273)

    Last Week MsMash posted a story about how cheap Green Electricity was in Germany all the while never bothering to mention the cost to the consumer was $0.30/KWH

    Seems there's plenty of shit to go around but as usual some people don't think their shit stinks.

    • I like the ones that talk about how Germany is getting all its power from green power sources and how everyone can do. Then you look into it and the time was for around 10 minutes on a Sunday afternoon when most of the businesses are not operating and the cloud cover was low and there was a lot higher than average wind blowing all over all the country.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And then you get the commenters who point out that Germany supposedly replaces nuclear with more fossil fuels, but they fail to admit that the share of electricity from fossil fuels is actually decreasing at the same time as nuclear is decreasing, and that the per capita electricity consumption from fossil fuels is 7.2MWh per year in the US, compared to just 3.3MWh per year in Germany. People in the US actually consume more electricity from fossil fuels than people in Germany consume in total (6.6MWh). The

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Liar. Here is the story:

      https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

      Note that it was not posted by MsMash. Also, it doesn't claim that electricity in Germany is cheap, you made that up too. All it says is that some big consumers (industries) were paid to use energy for a while, which is 100% true.

      • Liar it does claim it was cheap

        The cost of electricity in Germany has decreased so dramatically in the past few days that major consumers have actually been paid to use power from the grid.

        My error on MsMash but it's 6 of one half a dozen of the other.

        What's your excuse for deliberately misreading that ?

        • The best lies have a kernel of truth.

          Pointing out that the spot price spiked negative because of a rapid glut is not the same as saying "electricity is cheap" which implies some sort of continuing condition.

          Trying ot equate the two is deeply dishonest and the intent is to deceive.

  • At the same time, Google's "new algorithm" moves many long-time leftist web sites way, way down in search results.
    The "World Socialist Website" has been documenting this, since they are major victims of it.

    "An open letter to Google: Stop the censorship of the Internet! Stop the political blacklisting of the World Socialist Web Site! "
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articl... [wsws.org]

    "The conspiracy to censor the Internet"
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articl... [wsws.org]

  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @07:31PM (#55831627)
    It's not that anyone's gaming the system, it's just that Google thinks that if you hide your identity or personal information, you must be a loony paranoid conspiracy theorist and so it just gives you what it thinks you want; loony paranoid conspiracy theories.
  • Politics trumps science

    You'd be surprised how well money works in the new world of faith and money based science.

    A few calls and bakheesh from the right people, and baby, we're rockin' a 6000 year old flat earth.

  • Last year I had to research local HVAC providers. Google was useless. There wasn't a single local result and every one looked like they SEOed the crap out of their site to rise to the top. Decided to go old school and use the yellow pages (the big paper book with yellow pages) instead and it was far more informative.
    • Decided to go old school and use the yellow pages (the big paper book with yellow pages) instead and it was far more informative.

      Yes, you have to do that because yp.com has a bunch of "serves your area" bullshit hits from miles and miles away.

  • People are daring to say unapproved things. Others are daring to let that text be found! This must be stopped.
  • Let me start by saying I'm not at all a climate change denier, I believe in man made global warming, because that's what the scientists tell me and who am I to argue.

    With that said, isn't this how Google's PageRank algorithm (or its successor) works? A sites popularity is determined by the amount of sites linking to it. Unfortunately, I think there's just a lot of people who are climate change deniers who link to these sources.

    Isn't this the obvious, simple answer?

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