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X Platform Ranks Lowest in Combating Climate Misinformation

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
28th September 2023
X Platform Ranks Lowest in Combating Climate Misinformation
Evaluating climate misinformation policies, X ranked lowest (Getty)

In an evaluation of policies targeting the reduction of climate change misinformation, X, previously known as Twitter, received a mere one point out of a total scorecard of 21 points. This assessment positioned X at the lowest rank among the five major tech platforms examined.

CAAD Coalition Evaluates Tech Firms’ Policy

The "Climate of Misinformation" report, conducted by CAAD (Climate Action Against Disinformation) investigated the content of moderation policies and initiatives of Meta, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and X, with the goal of addressing inaccurate information like climate denialism. 

Comprising numerous global climate and anti-disinformation organizations, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, this coalition released the report to highlight the issue of climate misinformation on prominent platforms. They assert that major tech companies have become “complicit actors” in accelerating the dissemination of climate denialism.

X’s now ranking in the survey resulted from its failure to meet nearly all the organization's criteria concerning climate misinformation policies. These criteria encompassed aspects such as providing transparent and publicly accessible information on climate science and clearly articulating policies regarding actions the company would take to combat the spread of misinformation. The report pointed out that the acquisition of the company by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk the previous year had contributed to the ambiguity surrounding the enforcement of policies and the decision-making processes related to content on the platform.

The report stated that Elon Musk's acquisition of the company has introduced uncertainty regarding the status of existing policies, leaving questions about which policies remain in effect and which ones do not.

In the report, X firm earned its sole point for meeting one of the researchers' requirements, which is to have an easily accessible and comprehensible privacy policy. Notably, X was the only platform that did not have a well-defined reporting process for flagging harmful or deceptive content for further review.

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A screenshot of the CAAD’s report.

The Report’s Key Findings

While the performance of the other platforms was relatively better, none achieved particularly high scores on the report's assessment scale. Pinterest received the highest score, with 12 points out of a possible 21. The issues identified encompassed a lack of clearly defined criteria for identifying climate misinformation, a failure to enforce existing policies transparently, and a dearth of evidence demonstrating that these policies were applied consistently across different languages. Moreover, none of the companies published public reports detailing how their algorithmic changes impacted the spread of climate misinformation, as noted in the report.

YouTube, Meta, and TikTok have made commitments but struggle with policy enforcement, according to independent researchers. Four out of five platforms lacked a comprehensive definition of climate misinformation in their content moderation policies. Also, most platforms lacked policies addressing greenwashing, and none of the platforms provided sufficient proof of equal enforcement of climate misinformation policies across languages.

Four of the five platforms had privacy policies that were either challenging to understand or did not explicitly prevent personal data sale/sharing. Furthermore, none of the platforms offered adequate algorithmic reporting, and four out of five lacked reports on misinformation trends. The report also finds that two out of five platforms lacked effective public education tools on climate change and solutions, with existing tools like Facebook's Climate Science Center proving ineffective against misinformation.

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A screenshot of the CAAD’s report.

CAAD Suggests Changes to Tech Firms’ Privacy Policies

The authors of the organization propose several changes to the policies of major tech companies. These recommendations include the establishment of clear guidelines related to climate issues and updates to privacy policies that disclose when private data is being shared with advertisers associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Despite consistent advocacy from anti-misinformation groups like Climate Action Against Disinformation, there has been a noticeable trend in the past year towards the opposite direction. Elon Musk, for instance, has reduced X’s content moderation capabilities and reversed policies, allowing for the targeting of transgender individuals and the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation. YouTube also reversed its stance to permit election denialism, while Instagram reinstated anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on its platform.

What Is CAAD?

The Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition (CAAD) is a collective of over 50 organizations dedicated to combating content that promotes false narratives about the environment and hinders meaningful discussions on climate-related issues. CAAD's mission involves holding major technology companies responsible for permitting the dissemination of climate-related misinformation on their platforms.

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A screenshot of the CAAD’s website.

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