Five young people scaled the tall entrance of the Google/YouTube HQ in Kings Cross on Weds 16th October, defying a police Section 14 ban in order to protest the social media platform’s promotion of climate denial.
YouTube has nearly two billion users, and an American survey suggested that 50% of teenagers there get their news from the site at least a few times every week. It is also the most watched platform amongst 16-24 year olds according to a recent OfCom report.
So young climate protesters are deeply concerned by the knowledge that the site hosts a disproportionate number of videos promoting climate change denial.
Youth members of Extinction Rebellion were clear that they are not looking for YouTube to censor content or infringe free speech, and in fact it is good to have climate denial arguments on display in order to challenge them. But the problem they see with the platform is that the current algorithms unreasonably promote climate denial to its users due to the subject’s controversial aspect and so the hits generated, and they suspect fossil-fuel companies also exploit the system to push disinformation.
After scaling the tall entrance of Yoube’s HQ, they read out a letter to YouTube cheered on by supporters who were blocking the road in front of the entrance. They called for YouTube to adjust their algorithms so that content more closely reflected the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
After several hours, police deployed a specialist team with a cherry-picker vehicle to remove and arrest the protesters, and there were also several more arrests among supporters before the road was cleared.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Extinction Rebellion are waiting to hear the outcome of a High Court judicial review of the controversial Section 14 ban, which may render many arrests unlawful and open up the Metropolitan Police to civil claims.