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Tackling climate misinformation online

Posted 12.11.21

Climate misinformation is a growing issue and one that is being aided by the major social platforms. It’s also thanks for the recent Cop26 global climate conference, one that has been brought into sharp view. 

According to Pew Research last year 53% of Americans preferred getting their news from social media. This shows the power of the tech giants, and in particular Google and Facebook, to affect our understanding of the world and current events.

As reported in a study by Influence Map, released in August of this year, the oil and gas industry has for some time been gaming Facebook to drive a huge misinformation campaign that has “both directly and indirectly denied or cast significant doubt on the science of climate change. The purpose of denying climate change has been to prevent the implementation of regulation that would limit or mitigate climate change as such regulation would have reduced the demand for fossil fuels, including oil and gas.”

The research looked at ads on Facebook targeting US users from just 25 oil and gas sector organizations who spent close to $10M on the platform promoted either the climate-friendliness of the industry or promoting an ongoing role for oil and gas in the energy mix. The report found these companies had run over 25K ads that reached over 430M users showing the scale of the misinformation around the climate crisis. 

Despite having very aspirational green corporate agendas Facebook, and others have done little to stem the tide of climate misinformation on their platforms. As of October this year, Google came out to ban advertising that spreads misinformation around climate change. The policy “prohibits ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” and is seen as a step in the right direction to tackling this now-massive issue. 

In the UK the Conscious Ad Network, an organisation aimed at stopping advertising abuse (Wilderness are a long-time supporter), have produced an open letter to the COP26 Presidency & UNFCCC, and the CEOs of Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and Reddit asking them to tackle climate misinformation. 

I’m proud to say we, here at Wilderness, support this action and our Ceo & Founder Tom Jarvis has signed the letter on the agency’s behalf. Our belief is the platforms need to do more to tackle this issue. The time for talk is over and we must not act upon what we know to be the biggest challenge facing the world today. 

It is no longer acceptable that these organisations don’t have a set of robust climate misinformation policies that ensure advertising and content can not spread on their platforms. We have seen what strong enforcement can look like when these tech giants take action, in response to COVID misinformation and to stop the spread of the QAnon conspiracy. 

The evidence around the damage climate change is having on our planet and our ability to inhabit it is no longer scientific or anecdotal; it is now present in our everyday lives. We are seeing first hand the huge changes in weather affecting our way of life and the terrible devastation on both our wildlife and nature world. It’s our duty as an industry to ensure we push organisations and platforms to do more to stop the spread of misinformation and ensure we strive for change. 

We are proud to support these letters from Conscious Advertising Network and will be looking at ways we can support the effort in fighting misinformation around the climate crisis and other major issues affecting us all. 

Please see a link to the CAN Open Letter here

Check out CAN’s blog post about it here

For more info on CAN click here

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