Twitter is banning advertisements that promote climate change denial in an effort to curb the reach of groups seeking to downplay the extent of the environmental crisis.
“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,” the company said in a blog post. “We recognize that misleading information about climate change can undermine efforts to protect the planet.”
Twitter’s Friday announcement — coinciding with Earth Day — is part of a larger trend by social media companies to address criticism from activists that they are doing too little to combat climate change disinformation campaigns from spreading rapidly on their massive networks on their sprawling networks. In recent years, tech companies have been introducing new labels and information hubs to elevate accurate information about the environment while taking steps to limit the spread of falsehoods.
It also coincides with Elon Musk’s $43 billion hostile takeover bid for Twitter, which he launched last week amid weeks of talk about the importance of free speech. At a TED conference last week Musk called the company the public town square.
“I think we would want to err on the, if in doubt, let the speech, let it exist. But if it’s a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist,” he said.
That free speech stance may contradict Twitter’s push toward more content moderation, including in the area of climate change.
Last year, Twitter announced it would start directing users to online hubs containing “credible, authoritative information” on climate change that would appear in users’ “Explore” tabs, their Twitter search portals, and relevant trends lists.
Google similarly announced a move to ban advertisements that contradict scientists’ understanding about the existence and causes of climate change. Facebook, which was renamed Meta, has also launched a Climate Science Center to give users a go-to place to find accurate information on climate change. The company bans also ads promoting climate information that its third-party fact checkers determine is false, according to Meta spokesperson Aaron Simpson.
Still, research shows that climate change denial groups have managed to evade social media companies’ content moderation systems to spread falsehoods about the environment such as there is no evidence for the adverse effects of climate change. A 2021 report by the liberal-leaning advocacy group Avaaz found that between April 6, 2021, and Nov. 15, 2021, the top five climate change misinformers managed to rack up more than 60 million views on posts containing climate falsehoods — most of which were not labeled by Facebook as false.