Twitter Bans Misleading Climate Change Ads
On April 22, 2022, Twitter announced an official ban on all misleading climate change advertisements. The announcement followed a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that reiterated the importance of reducing carbon emissions to “turn the tide” on global warming.
“We believe that climate denialism shouldn’t be monetized on Twitter, and that misrepresentative ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis,” Sean Boyle, Twitter’s Director of Sustainability, stated in a blog post.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 23 percent of Americans use Twitter, and about 69 percent of those users say they get news from the site. To some, Twitter is considered to be an efficient way to receive news because of how the headlines are straight to the point and it includes the ability to view other people’s commentary. However, using any type of social media as a news source can be dangerous. In a survey conducted by Arunima Krishna, an assistant communications professor at Boston University, 40 percent of respondents were “disinformation receptive,” or people who had accepted some sort of falsehood about climate change. A main origin of these falsehoods is social media as this type of content circulates on online platforms due to high levels of engagement. User interactions, such as likes and comments, allow misinformation to spread rapidly, and platforms can be lenient on policing the content since the interactions end up benefiting their own network.
Twitter’s recent ban has prompted other social networks to take similar steps to combat climate misinformation. For instance, Google stopped showing advertisements on YouTube with climate misinformation; similarly, Pinterest announced that it would take down misleading climate data in both content and advertisements. While it is not entirely clear how Twitter will enforce this ban, some believe they could target corporations like Exxon, who have had past controversies with greenwashing — a form of marketing that deceptively convinces the public that the company is environmentally friendly.
Twitter’s announcement also included positive news, especially with the fact that “conversation about sustainability has grown by more than 150%” since 2021 and that “discussion around waste reduction has increased by over 100 percent.” While climate misinformation exists on social media, not all information is harmful or misleading. In many ways, social media has opened the door for people to become more aware of the threat of climate change and educate themselves about the topic. All in all, it is important to fact-check any type of news found on online platforms so that accurate and factual information can be consumed.