Facebook fuels online climate disinformation, report says


Facebook Says Fighting Disinformation With Global Network of Independent Fact-Checking Partners, But Campaigners Say Containing Misleading Messages Is Not Enough

Facebook is fueling climate misinformation around the world, allowing misleading claims and climate denial to circulate widely on its platform, according to a new report.

The social media giant doesn’t mention tackling climate misinformation in any of its advertising policies or community standards, according to one Campaign Report Stop Funding the Heat.

Examples of misinformation spread widely on Facebook include false claims that frozen wind turbines were the main cause of power outages in Texas and inaccurate reports that arson was the cause of bushfires in Australia.

“Facebook talks about climate misinformation, but doesn’t align with climate misinformation,” Sean Buchan, lead author of the report, told Climate Home News.

“They say they are doing a lot, but we haven’t seen any evidence that they are combating climate misinformation with the vigor that they imply,” Buchan said.

Facebook told Climate Home News that the platform directly connects more than 100,000 people every day with trusted information through its Climate Science Information Center, which was implemented in September. The center compiles data and information from experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations Environment Program.

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“We are combating misinformation about climate change by working with a global network of independent fact-checking partners to review and assess content,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

But Buchan said the center was not doing enough to prevent climate misinformation from getting through.

“It’s not enough at the moment. With Cop26 around the corner, climate misinformation is going to increase, ”Buchan said.

“This is a great opportunity for Facebook to take leadership in this area. This kind of event has already been derailed by disinformation campaigns, ”he added.

Australian MP George Christensen is spreading false information which has been shared 1,400 times.

The report highlights the global scale of disinformation, from Australia to the United States.

During the bushfires in Australia last year, robots and trolls posted fake Facebook posts claiming arson by environmental activists was to blame, the report said.

Misleading claims by conservative U.S. experts that frozen wind turbines were causing massive power outages in Texas in February have been shared on Facebook without fact-check labels.

This Fox News disinformation does not have a fact-checking warning and has been viewed 4.4 million times.

Fact-checking website Snopes called these claims “mostly false”. He revealed that the power outages were mainly caused by a failure in the production of fossil fuels and nuclear power. “Far from being the main culprit, wind turbine outages represented only a fraction of the losses in electricity and power generation,” he said.

According to human rights group Avaaz, the top 10 Facebook posts on wind turbine failures received more than 15.8 million views. “Facebook didn’t apply a fact-checking label on 42 posts, which were responsible for 45% of the total estimated views,” Avaaz said.

Geneviève Guenther, director of the End Climate Silence campaign group, experienced firsthand Facebook’s inadequate policies on climate disinformation.

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“Facebook does not allow groups like End Climate Silence to promote publications containing climate research. They flag and reject these posts as “political content,” Guenther told Climate Home News.

“But they allow climate denial groups to promote posts containing disinformation, bypassing their fact-checking process, labeling those posts as ‘opinion’,” she added.

In its report, Stop Funding the Heat calls on Facebook to update its community and advertising standards to include climate misinformation and stop taking money from climate denial groups.

Buchan said brands and investors play an important role in spurring Facebook to crack down on disinformation. “A brand can stop advertising because it doesn’t want to be associated with specific misinformation. Brands can threaten Facebook’s bottom line, ”he said.


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