Pinterest is taking a big step towards tackling climate change misinformation, with a new announcement that it will now ban misleading climate claims entirely from its platform.
That’s a significant step, and as Pinterest notes, it’s the first platform to do so, which is not just because others would prefer to allow more free and open speech, but also because policing such is very complex.
As explained by Pinterest:
“Ensuring that Pinners find ideas from trusted sources no matter what type of inspiration they are looking to discover on the platform is important to Pinterest. That’s why today, Pinterest is rolling out a new climate misinformation policy to keep false and misleading claims around climate change off the platform. Our new policy makes Pinterest the only major digital platform to have clearly defined guidelines against false or misleading climate change information, including conspiracy theories, across content and ads.”
As Pinterest notes, the new policy will cover:
- Content that denies the existence or impacts of climate change, the human influence on climate change, or that climate change is backed by scientific consensus.
- False or misleading content about climate change solutions that contradict well-established scientific consensus.
- Content that misrepresents scientific data, including by omission or cherry-picking, in order to erode trust in climate science and experts.
- Harmful false or misleading content about public safety emergencies including natural disasters and extreme weather events.
The new rules will be in place across all Pin content, including ads, while the platform’s advertising guidelines will also now explicitly prohibit any ads containing conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation related to climate change.
Which is indeed a big step, but as noted, actually enforcing such is difficult, because what qualifies as mis- or disinformation, based on different sources, can be complex, as is the intent of the person posting.
For example, the science behind the full causes of climate change is not definitive, so even though the consensus is that human activity is causing a change in the global climate, there is still debate around the specific elements at play, and how to address each. So are Pins that outline the causes of such misinformation?
What about if a person unwittingly shares something that raises questions about the underlying science – that could be disinformation, or it could form a part of the broader debate. Which side you fall on comes down to who you’re getting your info from.
In Pinterest’s case, this fact-checking will be conducted in partnership with the Climate Disinformation Coalition and the Conscious Advertising Network, which will both play a role in developing its policies to address harmful claims.
It could be an interesting case study – if Pinterest is actually able to formulate an effective, workable solution to detect and address such, that could provide a framework for other platforms to adopt the same. In this sense, Pinterest may be the ideal platform of focus, given that it’s less aligned around direct social interaction, which likely reduces the amount of climate misinformation in the app.
It’s an interesting experiment either way, and it’s also interesting to see social platforms looking to take more definitive stances on divisive issues, and siding with science to help tackle damaging movements.
There are risks, too, in restricting speech, but in some cases, the risks outweigh such concerns.
How each platform weighs such could be key to the next phase of online engagement.