This week, Pinterest announced a ban on false and misleading climate change information and conspiracy theories. The image-sharing platform will delete on climate conspiracies in both ads and user-generated content.
With 431 million active users, Pinterest is larger than both Twitter and Snapchat. In between Pinterest’s wedding inspiration mood boards, home decor collages, and fashion lookbooks, it hosts pockets of misinformation about topics like pollution, environmentalism, and climate change. The platform wants that to change. Previously, it had no formal policy on how to moderate content that denied the existence or the human causation of climate change. Quartz claims that Pinterest’s policy “goes further than any other major social platform.”
The policy comes in response to increased interest in climate-related topics on the platform. According to Pinterest, searches for environment keywords like “zero-waste” have increased significantly year over year. According to 2021 Yale public opinion polls, just 72 percent of U.S. adults agree that climate change is happening.
Getting warmer — Pinterest, an image-based platform that went public in 2019 and generates its revenue from ads, has been moderating itself for almost a decade. In 2013, it began removing content promoting self-harm or false health claims; in 2017 the platform banned vaccine misinformation; in 2018 it banned conspiracy theories; in 2020, it banned election misinformation.
How do you solve a problem like misinfo? — As the tech industry scrambles to moderate its platforms, there’s no clear moderation ideal. Pinterest uses a combination of AI content moderation, human judgment, and user reporting. In March 2021, Pinterest wrote in a blog post that its machine learning platforms had helped decrease user-generated reports by about half since 2019.
Google announced in October that it would also no longer allow climate change deniers to profit from its platforms. Many other social media companies, especially Facebook, struggle with keeping climate denial posts under control.