Climate dis/misinformation is widespread on social media and little is being done to curb or counter it by five major platforms, according to a Greenpeace report published on April 21.
A series of 27 “yes or no” questions was used to assess how five social media platforms – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube – were addressing dis/misinformation related to climate change and environmental concerns.
Greenpeace defined disinformation as “any verifiably false or misleading content that is spread with the intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain, and which has the potential to cause public harm” and misinformation as “verifiably false or misleading content that is shared without harmful intent, though the effects can still be harmful.”
The inquiries were related both to actions to counter dis/misinformation and transparency on reporting such policies and practices, with a point being awarded for each question in which the company was doing the described action.
Questions included, “Does the platform reduce the distribution of misinformation in algorithmically sorted content?” “Does the platform have a publicly available definition of climate misinformation?” and “Does the platform suspend of downrank accounts that repeatedly spread dis/misinformation?”
Out of 27 possible points, both Pinterest and YouTube scored 14 points, Facebook scored 9, TikTok 7 and Twitter 5 points.
A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “rhetoric and misinformation on climate change and the deliberate undermining of science have contributed to misperceptions of the scientific consensus, uncertainty, disregarded risk and urgency, and dissent.”
Around half of all U.S. adults get their news from social media platforms, according to a September 2021 Pew Research Center report – 19% do so often and 29% do so sometimes. Nearly one third (31%) of all adults regularly obtain news via Facebook, compared to 22% on YouTube, 13% on Twitter and 6% on TikTok (Pinterest was not included in the survey).
Pew found that the percentage of social media users who obtain news from the platforms was noticeably higher: 55% of Twitter, 47% of Facebook, 30% of YouTube and 29% of TikTok users obtain news regularly from these outlets.
“There is a gross lack of transparency, as these companies conceal much of the data about the prevalence of digital climate dis/misinformation and any internal measures taken to address its spread,” the Greenpeace report said. “Pinterest and YouTube have taken notable steps to address climate dis/misinformation, while Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter trail behind in their efforts.”
The full report is available here.