Pinterest announced today it’s becoming the first major digital platform to introduce a comprehensive misinformation policy designed to combat false and misleading claims around climate change on its platform. According to the company’s newly updated misinformation guidelines, Pinterest will now be able to remove content that denies the existence of impacts of climate change, denies human influence on climate change and denies climate change is backed by scientific consensus, among other things.
It will also remove false and misleading content about climate change solutions that contradict scientific consensus, content that misrepresents scientific data either by omission or cherry-picking in order to erode trust in climate science and experts and harmful and misleading content about public safety emergencies including natural disasters and extreme weather events.
The company noted the new Community guidelines don’t only apply to posts on the social network, but also to ads. Pinterest advertisers will have to follow the same rules and the Pinterest Advertising guidelines were updated to also prohibit ads containing conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation related to climate change.
“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. The expanded climate misinformation policy is yet another step in Pinterest’s journey to combat misinformation and create a safe space online,” said Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of Policy, in a statement about the announcement.
The company says it relied on input from partnered experts, including the Climate Disinformation Coalition and the Conscious Advertising Network, to help develop and inform its new policy decisions.
The change follows what Pinterest says has been an increase in user searches for topics related to sustainability and the environment. Over the past year, searches for “zero waste tips” increased by 6x, “recycling clothes ideas” were up by 4x and searches for “recycled home decor” were up 95%, while “zero waste lifestyle” searches were up 64%.
To encourage further inspiration around greener lifestyles, Pinterest will launch a Creator Originals content series led by creators from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, France, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia and India, which will focus on things like thrifting tips, upcycling clothes, minimizing food waste and more. It will also offer ad credits to select organizations, including Project Drawdown and Potential Energy Coalition, the organization powering Science Moms.
The new policy follows increased awareness of businesses’ role in addressing climate change. The SEC, for instance, has proposed new rules that would require companies to report how their operations impact the climate and the formation of carbon emissions. It also stepped up its requests from major tech companies by asking for further information on climate change disclosures. Among those asked for more detail were large tech companies Alphabet, Amazon, Autodesk, eBay, Meta, Intel and Salesforce. The U.N. also recently released a climate report that encouraged the adoption of renewable energy sources and other measures to limit climate change impacts.
Today’s update would not be the first time Pinterest changed its guidelines to better align with the scientific community. In Summer 2019, ahead of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting anti-vax sentiment that later emerged, Pinterest said it would limit vaccine-related search results to authoritative sources, including leading public health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In earlier years, it had blocked anti-vaccine content to prevent conspiracies from spreading. In 2020, it launched authoritative search results for COVID-19, as well.
More broadly, Pinterest has taken other, proactive measures aimed at making its network a more positive place. For instance, in 2016, it prohibited ads for sensitive content, including culturally appropriated and inappropriate costumes. It also stopped running political ads in 2018 and rolled out compassionate search for people seeking mental health support in 2019.
Of course, updating a content policy and actually enforcing it are two different things.
Pinterest claims it will use a variety of methods to find and take action on the ads violating its new climate change policy, including a combination of automated systems and moderator investigations. It says the Pinterest Trust & Safety team will also review user reports of violating content — like those submitted through Pinterest’s dedicated feature for flagging misinformation.
Pinterest’s move has received praise from organizations working on climate action.
“Climate disinformation on digital platforms is a serious threat to the public support needed to solve the climate crisis,” said Michael Khoo, Climate Disinformation co-chair at Friends of the Earth. “Pinterest has demonstrated great leadership by creating a community standard that includes a definition of climate misinformation, and we will continue to press all platforms for transparency and reporting on their actions. We encourage others to take note of Pinterest’s efforts to reduce climate change disinformation,” he added.