Townhall Media has turned climate lies into a booming business

So why are ad exchanges still running your ads on them?


This week, world leaders, advocacy groups, and civil organizations are gathering for the annual UN Climate Summit in New York City.

We hope that their talks lead to swift action. After all, climate change is not a debate. The scientific community agrees. The corporate world agrees. For many of us, climate change has taken place on our doorsteps.

But we’re not going to sit around and wait for someone else to solve the problem. Especially when we know we can do something about it now.

Climate change is real. But the global response to it is being paralyzed by a small coterie of oil and gas interests funding the constant distribution of climate lies.

These operations often receive seed funding from foundations like those associated with the Koch Brothers or the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

But after they get started, they sustain their operations through ad revenue.

Over time, this has turned into a sprawling network of online publishers who produce an enormous amount of anti-climate change propaganda to undermine and cripple the action we need.

It shouldn’t be this easy for them to turn a profit. Over the past few years, the ad industry has become increasingly climate-conscious. They have committed to fighting climate change in a variety of ways — from reducing the carbon footprint to alternative energy choices.

Ad exchanges also have supply policies that prohibit the monetization of climate lies. That’s largely because their clients — advertisers who wouldn't want to be caught dead next to that stuff — have demanded it.

So the question is: why on earth are they sending your ad dollars towards Townhall Media, one of the biggest producers of climate change disinformation in the United States?

These ad exchanges are committed to fighting climate change — but also partner with Townhall Media

The ad industry seems to unanimously agree: we need to fight climate change. They’ve made business-wide commitments to sustainability and carbon neutrality. (Programmatic advertising generates 215,000 metric tons of carbon emissions around the world each month.)

So why isn't declining to partner with climate change deniers a part of the equation here?

The following ad exchanges have all taken a clear stance on both climate and disinformation but still run ads on Townhall:


Amazon has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. "Climate scientists agree that the world needs to reduce its carbon emissions, and we at Amazon are working to do our part," they write.

Amazon’s content policy prohibits “exploitation of sensitive events such as natural disasters, human-caused disasters, incidents of mass trauma and/or casualties,” “Deceptive, false, or misleading content,” and “Content that revolves around highly debated social topics.”

But they also make cash payments to Townhall Media.

Appnexus/Xandr (owned by Microsoft)

Microsoft says they care so much about climate change that they’re going to be carbon negative by 2030. The technology company has invested in and purchased 10,000 tons of carbon removal from Climeworks, the world's first commercial-scale carbon removal operation.

Microsoft is also the owner of Xandr, a major ad exchange formerly known as Appnexus. Besides a ban against “hate speech,” it was hard to see what the current policy is for Xandr because it’s password-protected. But, according to an archived copy, “content that Xandr reasonably deems to be (a) morally reprehensible or patently offensive, and (b) without redeeming social value.”

But they also make cash payments to Townhall Media.


Criteo's environmental sustainability commitment says, “the backlash of climate change on our lives can no longer be ignored.”

Criteo’s Supply Partner Guidelines prohibit display ads containing content that “shares mistruths and falsehoods” or “is intentionally designed to shock or horrify the user or generate attention through intentionally misleading or grotesque claims.”

But they also make cash payments to Townhall Media.


In 2021, Google announced that they would ban publishers spreading climate change disinformation from their ad products. Google’s publisher policy currently prohibits “content that contradicts authoritative scientific consensus on climate change.” Yet in May 2023, the New York Times reported Google hasn’t been enforcing this policy.

That checks out, because they make cash payments to Townhall Media.


OpenX has a sustainability page on their website which touts that they’re “the first company in the advertising, technology, and media sectors to receive independent verification that it has met the Net-Zero Standard requirements.” They've also received “CarbonNeutral® certification.”

OpenX’s ad exchange policy prohibits sites which feature “a pattern of false or misleading information or news.”

But they also make cash payments to Townhall Media.


“The most important thing publishers can do in the fight for sustainability is make sure that they are not perpetuating climate misinformation,” wrote Teads director of sustainability Benjamin Davy.

Teads says it vets publishers to “combat disinformation and hate speech” and enables brands to avoid “willful misinformation.”

But they also make cash payments to Townhall Media.

Townhall Media: A hub for climate disinformation

We find ourselves zeroing in on Townhall Media  because it is simply a prolific producer of climate disinformation.

Its flagship website churns out a constant stream of catchy, misleading, and manipulative headlines about climate change. For example:

There's no attempt at balance or weighing contrary evidence.  Though Townhall bills itself as a news outlet, we couldn't find it producing any content suggesting climate change is real. has published columns from 46 outspoken climate deniers and skeptics listed in climate watchdog DeSmog’s disinformation database. Among them:

A Center for Countering Digital Hate report found Townhall is in the top tier among 10 fringe publishers responsible for nearly 70% of Facebook user interactions denying climate change. They’re a veritable climate disinformation "superpolluter", the report said.

But that’s not all. Townhall Media is not a single website, but part of Salem Media Group’s network of disinformation websites that traffic in hate, bigotry, and you guessed it – climate disinformation, à la Breitbart. Here are other major sites in the network:

None of these sites would pass an honest review against ad exchange supply policies.

Why are brands paying for it?

How do you fight climate change while funding the biggest voices behind climate change disinformation? We could all use a little clarity here. Asking for the planet, but also the brands whose ads we saw wind up on climate denial articles, including Bobcat, L.L. Bean, McDonald’s, Scripps Research, and Men’s Warehouse.

Source: Townhall
Source: Townhall

Do we think these brands really want to be running on content like this? We've reached out to all the companies, ad exchanges and Townhall for comment and will keep you posted.

Call-to-action: Climate Week Edition


If you’re an advertiser, let your adtech vendors know that funding Townhall and any other climate change disinformation outlets on Center for Countering Digital Hate's list is a violation of your supply policy agreement. You can also request refunds for any impressions you paid for on those websites.

If you work at an agency, consider asking your clients for approval to place Townhall Media on their media blocklist.

These are the seller accounts you will need to block:

Ad network Seller ID
Amazon 3281
Appnexus / Xandr 6893
Criteo B-061240
Google pub-3522377144365482
Google pub-9450655209824617
Index Exchange 186342
Index Exchange 206666
OpenX 537109697
OpenX 539504380
Teads 11503


How do you feel about firing off some emails directly to the people in charge? Each day this week we'll post a link to a new action email to send, including email addresses for top executives and a template.

Day 1: Email Criteo

Day 2: Email Teads

Day 3: Email Index Exchange

Day 4: Email Xandr

We'll be asking them if Townhall aligns with their policies and ask them to review the account.

Let’s go get us some answers.


Nandini and Claire

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