Many of the social media platforms that surround us seem innocuous enough. They give us the options to share what we had for breakfast, the latest latte art, stay in touch with our friends and share our personal interests. But as we’ve seen over the past several years, users can deploy social media tools as weapons of division and misinformation. Now Pinterest, the popular platform for “pinning” how we cook, plan milestone events and design our home, announced yesterday that “pinners” who spread climate misinformation should pack up their digital pinboards and find another site to spew “alternative facts.”
The company recently updated its community guidelines, and it doesn’t mince words. While Pinterest doesn’t pledge to outright ban users who spread falsehoods about climate change, the platform’s moderators say they will “remove or limit distribution of false or misleading content.”
Among the types of content Pinterest says it’ll crack down on: any content that denies the existence or effects of climate change; content about climate change solutions that contradict scientific consensus; posts that in any manner distort or cherry-pick the scientific data on climate change that could diminish trust in climate change experts; and any harmful misinformation about climate change-induced emergencies such as extreme weather events or natural disasters.
In a public statement, Pinterest also said any advertisements that appear on its platform have to follow those same community guidelines.
When it comes to other sources of misinformation and hateful speech, Pinterest also makes it clear that unsupported health claims, misinformation about election integrity or hate speech targeted at any group of individuals are also unwelcome.
“Pinterest believes in cultivating a space that’s trusted and truthful for those using our platform. This bold move is an expansion of our broader misinformation guidelines, which we first developed in 2017 to address public health misinformation, and have since updated to address new and emerging issues as they come to the forefront,” said Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of policy. “The expanded climate misinformation policy is yet another step in Pinterest’s journey to combat misinformation and create a safe space online.”
The company claims that currently, Pinterest is the only major digital content sharing platform that has crafted clearly defined policies that take a stand against climate misinformation and related conspiracy theories.
The stance Pinterest is taking is in sharp contrast to platforms such as Facebook, the founder of which, Mark Zuckerberg, has long argued that technology companies should be a neutral arbiter and not decide what content is true or not true. In the weeks before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Zuckerberg argued during a speech at Georgetown University that “Political ads on Facebook are more transparent than anywhere else. We don’t factcheck political ads… because we believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. I know many people disagree, but in general I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we are not an outlier here.”
When it comes to climate change discourse, Facebook has claimed that it would be more aggressive in tackling and labeling climate misinformation, but a study released in February claimed that the platform and its parent company fell short of labeling about half of such posts.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s approach to climate misinformation, which the company rolled out in the days before the COP26 meeting, was to “pre-bunk” any such climate misinformation by streaming content such as “hubs of information” and “explore” tabs across its platform.
As for Pinterest, the firming up of its community guidelines comes at a time when its users are increasingly researching sustainability on its platform. The company said data from recent months in comparison to a year earlier found that searches for “zero waste” tips surged six-fold, queries about “recycled clothes ideas” soared four times higher and searches for “recycled home decor” almost doubled.
Image credit: Brett Jordan via Pexels
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.