Most people know that everything we read on the internet is 100% true, which makes Google an arbiter of truth in an uncomfortable way; you are also right that Google says you are. that’s why big oil businesses buy ads that look like legitimate search results. Exxonmobil, Shell and Aramco are among the biggest buyers of these sensitive ads, according to the Guardian.
After analyzing Google search results for “78 terms related to climate”, the Guardian found that almost 20% of the ads shown on the search engine were placed there by oil companies, and these ads are designed in such a way that search engine users cannot easily tell they are is, in fact, advertisements.
This greenwashing is especially harmful because people looking for information on climate change see these ads mixed in with everything else. The Guardian said that over half of search engine users said they couldn’t tell the difference between paid ads and normal search results.
According to these deceptive advertisements, Shell is one of the biggest supporters of achieving zero net emissions in the near future:
Oil major Shell’s announcements – 153 were counted in total – appeared on 86% of “net zero” searches. Many have been promoting its pledge to become a net zero business by 2050 and align with a 1.5 ° C warming target.
Except no, Shell isn’t as interested in net-zero as it is in extending the status quo, according to the analysts behind the report:
However, Shell’s net zero strategy relies heavily on carbon capture and offsetting, according to a Carbon Brief Analysis, who says: “Despite its ‘very ambitious’ framework… Shell’s vision of a continued role for oil, gas and coal until the end of the century remains essentially the same.
Saudi company Aramco went even further than Shell with its announcements, using eco-responsible buzzwords to state that he wants to protect the planet:
Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, which is the world’s largest oil exporter, had 114 listings under the keywords “carbon storage”, “carbon capture” and “energy transition”. A number of their advertisements claimed that the company “promotes biodiversity” and “protects the planet”.
And it’s not just the oil companies, but the big financial firms that support the fossil fuel industry, like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Their ads appear when you search for phrases like “renewable energy” or “energy transition”. Of course, Google is happy to take their money, as the analysts behind the Guardian report noted:
Google lets groups with a vested interest in the continued use of fossil fuels pay to influence the resources people receive when they try to educate themselves.
“The oil and gas industry has stopped challenging the science of climate change and is now seeking to influence public discussions of decarbonization in its favor.
Greenwashing is not new. To research said oil companies have used public relations to influence public perception since the 1980s, but putting in what amounts to propaganda on one of the most popular search engines isn’t great. I guess that’s one more reason to use DuckDuck Go. Or at the very least, pay attention to the small letters that are written: “Ad”.