In a new assessment of several major social media platforms, X, formerly known as Twitter, came in dead last in managing climate misinformation.
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A report released on Wednesday by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of more than 50 environmental groups, scored several social media platforms. The company with the most points ranked the highest in fighting climate misinformation.
The platforms could receive up to 21 points from a combination of categories including transparency, advertising, policy content, and enforcing their rules on climate misinformation. X only received a single point for “lacking clear policies that address climate misinformation, having no substantive public transparency mechanisms, and offering no evidence of effective policy enforcement,” the report said.
All other platforms ranked higher. YouTube came in second to last with 6 points. Meta and Instagram tied at 8 points, TikTok received 9 points. Pinterest came out on top with 12 points.
“Pinterest has been pretty proactive with working with our coalition in regards to having a content moderation policy that addresses climate change misinformation,” Erika Seiber, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition, told Earther.
Though social media users can always log off, researchers reasoned that it is important to hold these platforms accountable for their lack of climate misinformation policies, or for the lack of regular enforcement. Americans are increasingly getting their information about breaking news and social issues from social media apps. A 2021 report from the Pew Research Center outlined that almost half of U.S. adults regularly received their news from social media.
“[Platforms] have a substantive impact on the way that we talk about climate change, climate solutions, renewable energy, and climate policy as a whole,” Seiber explained. “All the extreme weather events that have happened over the summer, whether it be the heat waves or the wildfires in Hawaii, misinformation has created a lot of confusion around the cause of the fires.”
Before Elon Musk purchased the platform last year, the app had once banned advertisements that contradicted climate science. But now it’s not clear how new leadership has addressed this, if at all. “Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company has created uncertainty about which policies are still standing and which are not,” the report said.
The Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition reached out to X and the other platforms mentioned in the report while compiling the information but did not receive a response from X. Seiber explained that before Musk purchased the website, environmental justice organizations like Friends of the Earth had a reliable contact with X when it was still Twitter. But Musk stripped down the company’s content moderation team which led to less insight into how the company handles misinformation.
The Musk takeover of X, formerly Twitter, has had other consequences. Environmentalists and experts who once used the site for education and community building began to see a shift in their online interactions. This sparked an exodus of climate voices.
“There’s been a massive change. I get so much abuse and rude comments now,” Mark Maslin, a climate scientist professor at University College London, told The Guardian this year.
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