COP26 Open Letter on Climate Disinformation Targets Tech Platforms

Signatories include leaders from sustainability organizations and major brand advertisers

The letter was organized by the Conscious Advertising Network and has a goal of collecting 350 signatures.Richard Drury/Getty Images

An open letter has been signed by sustainability organizations and advertisers which aims to send a message to climate change summit COP26’s presidency and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as the world’s largest technology platforms including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter to tackle the spread of climate mis/disinformation.

With an aim of gaining 350 organization signatures, the current total is around 250 and includes the agreement from leaders including former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project; Laurence Tubiana, CEO of European Climate Foundation; Baroness Bryony Worthington, lead author of the U.K. Climate Act; Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy and COP20 president and from brands Ben & Jerry’s and Virgin Media O2.

Organized by the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), the letter has been composed to address leaders attending the climate change summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, COP26, which has seen world leaders meet to agree on policies to reverse global warming.

The letter follows research conducted by NewsGuard and Comscore which found that the value of advertising spend to publishers of misinformation and disinformation annually has reached $2.6 billion, including false health claims, anti-vaccination myths, election misinformation and other false news reports.

In a statement, Michael Khoo, Friends of the Earth co-chair of the Climate Disinformation Coalition, commented: “Climate denialism is a threat to solving the climate crisis, and it’s running rampant on social media platforms. Leaders must require transparent data from these companies so we can understand the full extent of the disinformation campaigns and stop them from preventing action on climate change.”

Other signatories include sponsors of COP26 Sky and SSE as well as civil society groups Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, WWF International, Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and National Union of Students.

Action is urgently needed

The letter requests that a universal definition for climate dis/misinformation be agreed upon, that action be taken against it— which will be negotiated during the summit—and that tech platforms begin to implement policies to enforce removing such content, algorithms and advertisements.

Jacob Dubbins, co-founder of CAN, explained: “There isn’t a universally agreed [upon] definition of climate dis and misinformation, and most online platforms don’t have climate dis and misinformation policies. Clearly, we need both of these in order to combat misinformation that can seriously halt developments we are making to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC. We have seen misinformation derail conferences before and we cannot have it happen again. Our planet and our lives are at stake.”

A partnership developed between CAN and Google that was announced in October will see the introduction of a new monetization policy by the tech company which will prohibit ads and monetization around any content that contradicts scientific evidence on the existence and causes of climate change.

Harriet Kingaby, co-founder of CAN, added: “At the onset of the pandemic, technology platforms came together and issued a statement saying they had joined forces to combat ‘fraud and misinformation about the virus.’ So, we know that they can do it. Google’s latest policy was the result of a lot of hard work and sends a strong signal to all big technology companies that they can and must do more.”

The full letter can be read here.

Recommended articles