Twitter, Fail Whale
From Memory Lane: Twitter Fail Whale. Photo credit: Vanessa Wu / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A new report shows that all major social media companies are failing to control the spread of climate misinformation — and none more so than Twitter / X, especially since Elon Musk took the helm.

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For decades, the fossil fuel industry has been engaged in a relentless campaign to spread misinformation about climate change and its role in the warming of our planet. In recent years, social media platforms have made its job much easier. On Wednesday, a new report from a coalition of environmental groups shows just how easy.

“Big Tech has become a complicit actor in climate denial’s resurgence — so much so that the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change publicly called out the problem in 2022,” according to the report from Climate Action Against Disinformation, a coalition that includes groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

And no platform is worse at limiting the spread of misinformation than Elon Musk’s Twitter/X, according to the study

It ranked five social media platforms and companies — Pinterest, TikTok, Meta, YouTube, and Twitter — based on how they performed in 21 criteria.

Only Pinterest earned points in more than half of the criteria, which were divided into the five broader categories of Policy Content, Transparency, Advertising/Monetization, Privacy, and Enforcement.

Twitter/X came in dead last and received only a single point.

The report states that the platform “lack[s] clear policies that address climate misinformation, [has] no substantive public transparency mechanisms, and offer[s] no evidence of effective policy enforcement.”

The coalition of environment groups notes that some platforms have made progress in recent years. For example, Google pledged in 2021 to no longer allow users to make money off climate denial content on YouTube. A year later, Pinterest banned climate misinformation in organic content and advertisement. And, this year, TikTok added climate to its current misinformation and disinformation policies.

At the same time, Twitter/X has taken a big step backwards since Musk purchased the company last year.

Elon Musk, ASM and Battery Day

Elon Musk at the Tesla ASM and Battery Day, 2020. Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

“In the case of X/Twitter, Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company has created uncertainty about which policies are still standing and which are not,” the report stated. “While some policy content on Twitter/X’s website dated before the acquisition could potentially benefit the fight against climate disinformation, such as its announcement to ban ‘misleading advertisements on Twitter/X that contradict the scientific consensus on climate change,’ many policies are no longer being enforced, according to outside sources.”

Musk, the right-wing billionaire, has personally spread misinformation about climate change.

“Important to note that what happens on Earth’s surface (eg farming) has no meaningful impact on climate change,” he falsely tweeted earlier this year.

But not only does Twitter/X has to do better; all platforms need to improve, especially in light of the incredible reach they have.

“Big Tech is clearly failing to stop the extensive climate misinformation that threatens climate action. A toxic and fossil-fueled minority is drowning out the voices of science and reason, and social media platforms are complicit,” said Erika Seiber, the climate disinformation spokesperson for Friends of the Earth. “The scores in this report are unacceptable, especially in the case of Twitter/X, and should be a wake-up call for platforms and regulators to finally take climate misinformation seriously.”


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