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Twitter bans ads which deny climate change

Social media platforms are increasingly facing scrutiny for their role in the spread of climate change misinformation.

Misleading advertisements on Twitter that contradict the scientific consensus on climate change are prohibited, in line with our inappropriate content policy, the social media platform said in a blog post. The announcement was part of its sustainability commitments on the occasion of Earth Day that is observed on April 22, 2022.

The platform said that climate denialism should not be monetized on Twitter, and that “misrepresentative ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis”. Twitter said that its approach is informed by authoritative sources such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment reports. Misleading information about climate change can undermine efforts to protect the planet, it added.

This is perhaps the second time that Twitter has imposed a ban on a particular type of advertising after banning political advertising in 2019. It highlights the growing problem of misinformation on the internet which is amplified using ad tools provided by social media platforms. Twitter’s decision can set a precedent for other major platforms who are on the fence.

Why did Twitter ban political advertising in 2019?

Twitter announced that it would no longer allow political ads on the platform in 2019 on the eve of 2020 US presidential elections.

Jack Dorsey, the then CEO of Twitter, reasoned that internet advertising brings “significant risk to politics”. He added that Twitter would focus on issues of machine learning-based messaging optimisation and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information and deep fakes, without making them more complex with money.

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Dorsey also called for political ad regulation by an external regulator. “This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach.… It’s worth stepping back in order to address [it],” he added.

It remains to be seen how Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, will deal with these policies as he has repeatedly hinted at diluting content moderation tools. Musk, however, has previously said that “climate change is the biggest threat that humanity faces this century” and it is unlikely he will want much to do with ads denying climate change.

What are other tech companies doing on climate change?

Many social media platforms have been under pressure to act on misinformation on climate change prevalent on their platforms. It was found that Facebook advertisers promoted false and misleading claims about climate change on the platform around the same time as an important conference on climate change was underway, Reuters disclosed in its report.

Pinterest: The company announced that it will not allow users to share climate misinformation on its site, CNN said. The content has been banned outright. The company also intends to remove posts that deny climate change, CNN added.

Google: The search giant rolled out a new monetisation policy for Google advertisers, publishers, and YouTube creators that prohibited ads for, and monetisation of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change. It includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.

Facebook does not have a specific policy on climate misinformation in ads or unpaid posts, Reuters added.

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More than 200 scientists, activists and organisations signed an open letter last year urging social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and Reddit to establish climate misinformation policies similar to the ones they put in place for COVID-19, CNN revealed in its report.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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