In the Dark: How Social Media Companies’ Climate Disinformation Problem is Hidden from the Public
by Tyler Kruse
April 21, 2022
A 27-point assessment of Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube found that all companies fell short on addressing climate disinformation.
WASHINGTON – A new scorecard released today by Avaaz, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace USA shows that social media companies are leaving the public in the dark about how they’re curbing the spread of climate change dis/misinformation on their platforms. The report comes as the UN’s latest climate report named climate disinformation as a major threat to climate action for the first time.
The Climate Disinformation Coalition’s 27-point assessment of Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube found that all companies fell short on adopting definitions and policies to address the problem and are concealing data about the prevalence of climate disinformation.
Out of the five social media companies, Pinterest and YouTube have taken the most notable steps to address climate dis/misinformation and are the only ones with dis/misinformation policies informed by climate experts, both scoring 14 out of 27. Pinterest’s new policy rollout, which includes a climate disinformation definition in their community standards, helped raise their score.
In contrast, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter fared the worst, receiving 9, 7, and 5 points respectively due to a lack of transparency and thorough detail on how they’re holding repeat offenders accountable.
The report shows how social media leadership has largely failed to take action against climate disinformation despite promises to do so. This lack of transparency prevents climate experts, researchers and advocates from monitoring the severity of the problem and uprooting the dis/misinformation landscape at a time when we have finite time for climate action.
Furthermore, the Climate Disinformation Coalition and Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) sent a follow-up letter to the social media companies’ CEOs requesting swift action to combat climate disinformation in light of the IPCC report and Pinterest policy announcement.
The full report is available online here.
Rebecca Lenn, Senior Advisor at Avaaz said:
“As fossil fuel industry-backed climate disinformation pollutes users’ social media feeds and fans the flames of the climate crisis, tech companies are leaving the public in the dark about their responsibility in the face of this emergency. It’s time for Big Tech to answer the years-long call from researchers, advocates, and lawmakers for full transparency on the scale of climate disinformation online and their policies to combat it. If they won’t, then lawmakers need to step up and mandate transparency and accountability from tech platforms – not just to clean up our feeds, but to help end the climate crisis.”
Charlie Cray, Senior Strategist at Greenpeace USA said:
“Social media platforms – especially Facebook and Twitter – have allowed modern day propagandists to sabotage the planet saving efforts of scientists and experts. This analysis expands on what the IPCC identified in its latest report – the pernicious spread of climate disinformation across social media is a key reason for the delay in the transition to the clean energy economy that we need for a livable future.
“Social media companies’ passive and inscrutable response to climate disinformation has allowed them to boost their numbers while driving us towards total planetary collapse. This must end now. We need more transparency and aggressive action before any of the platforms can credibly claim to foster the norms of digital discourse that are essential to our collective survival.”
Julia Masters, Campaign Manager of the Climate Disinformation Coalition at Friends of the Earth, said:
“None of the social media companies got more than half of the points available, failing miserably to protect users from harmful climate disinformation. This is unacceptable and should be a wake up call for Big Tech to strengthen policies and introduce transparency measures to better address climate disinformation. Pinterest has proven it’s possible to address climate disinformation in community guidelines, and it’s past time for other companies to follow suit.”
Tyler Kruse, Greenpeace USA, (808) 741-2791, [email protected]
Brittany Miller, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]
Rebecca Lenn, Avaaz, (703) 300-2303, [email protected]