Social media is a massive breeding ground for misinformation, especially when it comes to topics with polarizing public opinions. In response, many social media giants have implemented strategies to combat the spread of climate misinformation, and while these strategies may be effective in the short term, they only serve as a temporary fix to prevent false information from spreading.
Recently, Twitter announced that it would be launching a new program designed to “pre-bunk” false information surrounding climate change, and counter climate change denial across its platform. According to a Twitter blog post, this new feature will provide users with “credible, authoritative information, available in the Explore Tab, Search, and Trends” through a digital hub on their website, where they will feature live conversations with climate experts on the science backing global warming.
This rollout followed the United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, with Twitter stating that they are “committed to elevating the latest, most authoritative information about #COP26.”
Twitter is the latest tech giant to attempt to take aim at climate misinformation. However, other companies have taken more proactive measures to counter climate denial on their platforms.
Last month, YouTube and Google introduced a new monetization policy, prohibiting ads for content that denies climate change. In September, Facebook also announced a grant program that will “offer funding to organizations working to combat climate misinformation.”
While this pre-bunking initiative may appear to be an effective solution for the spread of misinformation on Twitter’s part, especially when the circulation of climate misinformation was at an all-time high during COP26, it is far from perfect and only a band-aid for the larger issue of false information on the company’s platform.
These pre-bunks are pre-emptive only and will not prevent people from spreading falsehoods about climate change on the app.
Twitter will not be taking action to ban individuals who post-climate misinformation, instead focusing on providing access to reliable information about the issue, which means climate deniers will still be able to engage in spreading falsities and influence others on the app.
In addition, Twitter announced in a statement that this new initiative serves as a preventative effort to combat the anticipated surge of misinformation in light of the Climate Summit and that they intend to discontinue pre-bunks now that COP26 has ended.
Social media giants like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become a lot of people’s primary sources for daily news and information, and due to their massive influence, they are popular for both climate-deniers and other sources of misinformation like bots.
A study conducted by Brown University and New York University researchers found that 25 per cent of tweets during the period of previous U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017 were created by bots, with higher bot presence in tweets that questioned the existence and seriousness of climate change.
Climate misinformation has been rampant on Twitter for years, increasing recently due to the growing climate crisis and the increase of discussion surrounding this topic on social media.
A system to address this issue is long overdue, and while Twitter’s “pre-bunking” program could be effective at presenting science-based, credible information, it failed to expunge influential individuals and accounts that expose other users to inaccurate information about the current climate crisis, which is the root cause of climate misinformation.