Fighting Climate Disinformation
Social media companies have justifiably come under fire for their role in the spread of false or misleading information online. Increasingly, disinformation on polarizing issues such as Covid-19 and election fraud have become commonplace on social media platforms. In fact, one study found that Americans consumed more news from unreliable sources in 2020 compared to the previous year. And on Twitter, misinformation was 70% more likely to be retweeted than tweets with factual information.
Unfortunately, with the fossil fuel industry pouring millions into spreading climate disinformation, narratives meant to create distrust around climate science have also made their way to social media.
It’s hard enough to make strides when it comes to climate action. Green-lighting blatant lies about the scale of the climate crisis cannot continue — social media companies must be held accountable for their role in worsening our planet’s fate. Our case study on the Texas power outage in 2021–where wind turbines were falsely blamed– found that 99% of the disinformation was not even fact checked. This had real world consequences. In just 4 days the false image of a frozen wind turbine rocketed across social media, and became a talking point for the Republican Governor.
As corporate polluters gain more influence over our communications systems, we have launched a campaign to pressure social media companies and Congress to tackle climate disinformation. We have focused on the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google/Youtube, along with TikTok, and Pinterest. In October 2021, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), we co-authored a letter with 16 other environmental groups, calling on all big tech companies to take action in order to eliminate climate disinformation.
We also conducted an analysis to outline which social media platforms are best moderating the spread of climate disinformation. In April 2022, we released a scorecard highlighting how companies like Pinterest have adopted policies to eradicate disinformation in paid content. What’s more, Pinterest is the only platform to provide a robust definition for climate dis/misinformation that applies to both organic and ads.
We also celebrated news that Twitter adopted a policy to promote credible information on climate science. The policy also prohibited ads that contradict climate science. This announcement came just days after our scorecard placed Twitter last on our ranking of social media companies on their climate disinformation
Our efforts have helped shape the policies that these companies have to regulate the spread of false and misleading information. And just as we called out Facebook for allowing posts with false claims, we will continue pressuring other tech companies to realize their role in combating false and harmful narratives regarding climate change. Every other industry — from food production to car manufacturers to airlines — has to report about the safety of its products. Why should tech companies be any different? Together, we can promote truthful information and inspire robust action to protect our planet!