Some YouTube Videos Spread Wrong Information about Climate Science, Study Finds

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. conspiracy theory / kənˈspɪr ə si ˈθi ə ri / (n) – a belief that certain events were caused by powerful people intending to harm others

    There are people who spread conspiracy theories about the first moon landing being unreal.

  2. prevalent / ˈprɛv ə lənt / (adj) – common or widespread

    Malaria continues to be prevalent in tropical regions.

  3. deliberately / dɪˈlɪb ər ɪt li / (adv) – in an intentional or planned manner

    The company is being accused of deliberately lying about its product’s harmful effects.

  4. misleading / mɪsˈli dɪŋ / (adj) – giving the wrong information

    The customers complained about the product’s misleading advertisement.

  5. take steps to (do something) / teɪk stɛps tu / (idiom) – to do what is necessary to achieve something

    The administration has taken steps to improve the school’s facilities.


Read the text below.

A recent study has found that conspiracy theories about climate-related issues have become prevalent on YouTube.

The study, made by sociologist Joachim Allgaier /ˈyoʊ ɑ kɪm ˈælgaɪə/ from RWTH Aachen /ˈɑ kən/ University in Germany, analyzed what users would experience if they tried searching for climate-related terms on the online platform.

In the study, Allgaier searched 10 different keywords on YouTube. Some of the keywords were “climate change,” “climate science,” and “global warming.” He selected 20 videos corresponding to each term, then analyzed each one to see which videos supported the scientific facts about climate change and which did not.

Of the 200 videos Allgaier analyzed, he found that majority disagreed with established scientific ideas about climate change, and 85% even deliberately spread conspiracy theories. Because of this, Allgaier warns that a lot of users can be exposed to misleading information since YouTube is a widely used video platform. Based on data, YouTube has around 2 billion monthly users, and 95% of Internet users worldwide visit the website.

In the previous year, YouTube had taken steps to counter the spread of false information and updated its systems to lessen recommendations of content that could deceive users. However, as the study had shown, there are still plenty of scientifically inaccurate videos on the platform. To combat this, the study’s author suggested a solution that does not rely on YouTube’s guidelines or systems.

Since online video-sharing sites have great potential as sources for scientific learning, Allgaier suggested that scientists and professionals in the scientific community make use of the platforms effectively. He calls on them to independently produce videos and content that are scientifically accurate.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• In your opinion, what are some factors that make it difficult for scientists and professionals to produce and release content on online platforms like YouTube? Discuss.
• After reading the results of the study, would you still subscribe to or watch videos on free online video-sharing platforms? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Why do you think some people spread conspiracy theories? Explain.
• Do you think it is possible to completely end the spread of false news? Why or why not?