Climate change falsehoods, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories are still common on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube despite pledges to crackdown. Social media posts and videos denying climate change, disputing its causes, or underplaying its effects not only can still be found on these platforms, but they are also often missing warning labels or links to credible information, according to Advance Democracy, a research organization that studies misinformation.

Last year, Twitter added a new climate topic to direct users to credible information on climate change. Facebook expanded information labels on posts about climate change to direct users to its “Climate Science Information Center“ and YouTube stopped running ads denying climate change.

Twitter

Last May, Advance Democracy reported hundreds of thousands of posts on Twitter denying climate change using terms such as „climate fraud,“ „climate change hoax,“ or „climate cult“. A week later, Twitter added a new climate topic to direct users to credible information on climate change. The five accounts that received the most engagements in 2021 for posts denying climate change referenced “Grand Solar Minimum,“ the false belief that the Grand Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity, will cool the planet and cause the next ice age.

Facebook

Internal documents provided to USA TODAY and other news organizations by whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that Facebook is a primary source of climate information for users. Advance Democracy says 7,290 posts using climate change denial terms generated 800,760 interactions (meaning reactions, comments and shares) in 2021. Two of the most popular posts in the U.S. in the second half of 2021 were not labeled.

YouTube “Information Panels” missing from videos

According to YouTube guidelines, when a viewer searches or watches videos „prone to misinformation,“ an informational panel should appear with background information from independent third-party sources. YouTube also prohibits ads that promote climate change misinformation.

Advance Democracy says no information panels popped up on video searches for 10 key phrases associated with climate change denial but did turn up an ad from Amazon linking to books that deny the existence of climate change.

TikTok

Advance Democracy found that a small percentage of hashtags associated with climate change denial was used for counter-messaging. A search for #grandsolarminimum yielded no videos refuting the hoax.

TikTok said it removed the accounts and content that violated its policies after USA TODAY inquired.

On the other hand, lies about climate change, in general, are so hard to counter on TikTok. Scientists say it’s very difficult to track down misinformation on this social network. “This is despite the fact that the platform launched a fact-checking program in 2020 in partnership with independent fact-checking organizations that would ‘help review and assess the accuracy of content’ on the platform.”

And for that reason, fact-checkers are required to carefully review all reported content for false information. So they only deal with highly viral videos, which limits their effectiveness. They then spend long hours tracking down misleading publications by trying to understand the terms used, by observing the text, the captions….


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