As social media cracks down on disinformation spread by platform users, some information is slipping through the cracks. In an op-ed for MSNBC, Emily Atkin writes about how social media companies are letting oil companies spread climate propaganda on social platforms.

In her HEATED newsletter, Atkin shared how the fossil fuel industry is increasing its paid ads in light of Biden’s climate announcements. ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute each claimed that reducing fossil fuel development would “hinder environmental progress” and some ads showed that natural gas was key to “a cleaner world.” Both of these are false statements.

While Twitter banned political ads in 2019, environmental groups have confirmed that since climate change is “political,” they aren’t allowed to advertise and fact-check oil companies’ statements. But Twitter doesn’t see oil companies’ disinformation on climate change as political.

“Corporations — including social media platforms — need to take climate misinformation as seriously as they take election and Covid misinformation,” John Cook, an assistant research professor at George Mason University who studies climate disinformation, told Atkin. “A long-term problem like climate change cuts both ways — it may seem less immediate now, but it also means we’ll be suffering the consequences of today’s decisions for decades to come.”

Source: Los Angeles Times/YouTube

These advertisements are the first instance of the fossil fuel industry deceiving the public about climate change. In October of 2019, a group of scientists released a report called America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. The report used internal corporate documents to show that the fossil fuel industry has known about climate change for decades and “its response was to actively orchestrate and fund denial and disinformation so as to stifle action and protect its status quo business operations.”

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