Pinterest has taken a significant step in combating climate change misinformation by announcing that it would now completely remove inaccurate climate statements from its site.
That's a big move, and as Pinterest points out, it's the first platform to do so, which is crucial not only because others would want more free and open expression, but also because monitoring it is difficult.
The new criteria will apply to all Pin content, including ads, and the platform's advertising guidelines will now expressly prohibit any ads that involve conspiracy theories, misinformation, or deception about climate change. This is a significant step, but as previously stated, enforcing it is difficult because determining what qualifies as misinformation or disinformation based on several sources, as well as the intent of the person publishing, can be complicated.
According to 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.”
According to Pinterest, the new policy will cover:
Content that denies the presence or consequences of climate change, the human effect on climate change, or the scientific consensus on climate change.
Content regarding climate change solutions that is false or misleading contradicts well-established scientific consensus.
To undermine trust in climate science and professionals, content that misrepresents scientific findings, either by omission or cherry-picking.
Harmful, incorrect, or misleading information about public safety crises, such as natural disasters and severe weather.
The science behind the full causes of climate change, for example, is not conclusive, so even though there is agreement that human activity is creating a change in the global climate, there is still discussion over the precise aspects at play and how to handle each.
Are there any Pins that explain the origins of such misinformation? What if someone unintentionally shares material that raises issues about the underlying research? This might be disinformation or part of a larger debate. It all boils down to whom you're getting your information from.
Pinterest's fact-checking will be done in collaboration with the Climate Disinformation Coalition and the Conscious Advertising Network, both of which will help the company build policies to combat false claims. It might be an intriguing case study — if Pinterest can come up with a viable way to detect and address such issues, it could serve as a model for other platforms to follow. In this respect, Pinterest might be the best platform for focusing because it's less focused on direct social connection, which means it's less likely to contain climate disinformation. Restriction of speech has risks as well, although, in some circumstances, the risks exceed the concerns.
The next phase of online interaction may hinge on how each platform prioritizes such factors.