Twitter Bans Ads That Deny Science on Global Warming
On Friday, April 22, Twitter announced it would ban ads that deny science on global warming. In a statement outlining the new policy, the company stated, “Ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis.” The ban follows a precedent set by Google in October 2021 in a wider movement of social media companies more heavily regulating misinformation on their platforms.
Twitter’s new ban on ads denying climate change comes in the wake of other social media companies issuing similar bans. (Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash)
What Does the Ban Entail?
The ban will target advertisers who spread misinformation on the site as well as add “reliable, authoritative context” about climate change on its platform. Decisions on appropriate content relating to climate change will be determined by “authoritative sources.” This includes the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has recently published influential reports outlining steps to lessen the effects of climate change. However, it is unclear what action Twitter will take against users who spread climate change misinformation at this point in time, whether it be suspending their accounts or banning them from the platform.
The new ban joins the social media company’s climate topic on its website, which seeks to educate viewers on the causes and effects of climate change and its wider movement to combat climate change. The Climate Change Topic, an initiative started in 2021, allowed users to receive Tweets from environmentalists and sustainability experts directly in their home timeline. In addition to this, Twitter’s #AdsforGood grants to environmental causes benefited several charities such as WWF and organizations such as the United Nations Environment Program. In order to reduce its carbon impact, the company has also promised to achieve 100 percent carbon-neutral power sourcing in data centers by the end of this year.
The company said in a statement, “We’ve partnered with Cool Effect, a nonprofit organization that helps offset emissions from our data centers and employee travel, to fund green projects around the world. So far, 92% of our global offices have achieved the “Green Building Certified” standard, with more to come.”
Social Media Companies’ New Push for Accountability
The change in social media companies’ ideology in regulating content comes after a widely circulated open letter signed by over 200 scientists and activists was addressed to the leaders of Big Tech companies, demanding they play a larger role in combating false news. Early in April, Pinterest announced a similar ban on climate change misinformation, stating it would ban users who attempted to do so. Yet despite social media companies’ new commitments to fighting the spread of hateful and false content online, many wonder if their new policies are truly effective.
In a report released a few months after Google announced its ban on climate misinformation, the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found 50 articles that contained climate change misinformation that featured Google ads. Additionally, much of climate denial content found on Facebook contained Google ads, with CCDH estimating a profit of $1.7 million for the company in six months from the misinformation.
Facebook has also been criticized for its lack of accountability regarding the spread of climate misinformation. However, unlike many other social media companies, Facebook upholds that their content does not violate their policies. Many activists have denounced this position, citing the platform’s policy on flagging.
The effects of Twitter’s ban on climate misinformation are yet to be seen, but they send an undeniable message in terms of the direction the company is heading on regulation. The announcement also comes in the midst of billionaire Elon Musk’s attempted acquisition of the company for $44 billion. Musk has been critical of social media censorship, calling Twitter a “de facto town square” where “failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” It is not clear what direction the social media company will take if acquired by Musk, but for now, it seems there is a dedicated effort to combat the widespread misinformation on the platform.
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