TikTok’s looking to take a stronger stance against climate change misinformation, with the platform outlawing all content that ‘undermines well-established scientific consensus’ about climate change and its impacts.
As explained by TikTok:
“On April 21, we will begin to ramp up enforcement of a new climate change misinformation policy which removes climate change misinformation that undermines well-established scientific consensus, such as content denying the existence of climate change or the factors that contribute to it. As we do for all misinformation policies, we will work with independent fact-checking partners when applying this policy to help assess the accuracy of content.”
Climate change denial is still a common focus of discussion online, with some major publications fueling the belief that the climate threat has been overblown for political means. Facebook also hasn’t banned climate denial content, and still facilitates the distribution of such, which helps to amplify queries – despite, as TikTok notes, scientific consensus being that climate change is happening, and that we need to act now to stop it.
Given the role that social apps play in the distribution of news and information, it’s important that they also take responsibility in this respect. And while some will also see it as a violation of free speech, there are cases where the public good also needs to factor into such decisions. And really, where scientific consensus is involved, it’s not a matter of opinion, or ‘doing your own research’ on the subject.
But then again, the same could be applied to the COVID crisis, which has been the subject of Twitter’s ‘Twitter Files’ expose into government meddling in content moderation within social apps. In that case, the scientific consensus was that COVID denialism could potentially limit take-up of the vaccine, along with fear mongering about potential side effects – but now, in retrospect, the Twitter Files purport to show how the Government has interfered with free speech to push its own agenda.
There are some who would argue the same with climate change, but this, again, underlines the fact that social platforms are working with the best information they have at any given time.
You may want to go back now and suggest that they have acted dishonestly, or with self-interest. But the platforms are working on advice from experts, including the government, in order to evolve their processes in line with need.
Broader bans on climate denial will help in this respect, while TikTok also notes that it will re-direct users who look up climate content towards its internal climate information center, created in partnership with the UN.
The announcement comes as part of TikTok’s Earth Month programming, which will also see the app host a range of dedicated activations and events.
It’s a good update, which will hopefully help to limit the impact of climate change denialism and counter-progressive messaging.