Facebook has announced new efforts to combat climate crisis misinformation on its platform, including expanding its climate science center to provide more reliable information, investing in organizations that fight misinformation, and releasing a series of videos to highlight climate changers. young climate advocates on Facebook and Instagram.
But critics say the new push, announced Thursday, will be brief and allow a lot of misinformation about the weather to creep through the cracks.
Facebook has long been criticized for allowing misinformation about the climate crisis to proliferate on its platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, accepted in a congressional hearing in April 2021 that climate misinformation is “a big problem.” In the past, the company has said that such misinformation represents “a very small percentage of the total misinformation about the service,” but declined to share figures.
Climate change and misinformation experts have said that lies on the platform can spread quickly. In October 2020, the climate denial watchdog group InfluenceMap found that dozens of climate denial ads had been viewed more than 8 million times after going through the social media filters.
In March 2021, 13 environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace, sent Zuckerberg a letter asking you to commit to monitoring climate misinformation and providing more transparency on the magnitude of the problem.
“Disinformation about climate change is spreading rapidly through Facebook’s social media platform, threatening the ability of citizens and lawmakers to fight the climate crisis,” the groups wrote.
A recent study by Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization, found that about 99% of climate misinformation about the February 2021 power outages in Texas went unchecked.
The study found misleading reports that the wind turbines had blackout failures that had run rampant on the social media platform. He also showed how such theories make their way from the fringes of Facebook to the mainstream, and found that although the windmill claim was discredited in the mainstream local media, the falsehoods became talking points for prominent politicians in four days.
Facebook has rejected the study’s findings, calling its characterization “misleading.” A spokesperson said Facebook had flagged dozens of posts as inaccurate at the time and limited their distribution to news sources. “Many of the examples in the report cited for not having labels are simply positions that the organization disagrees with,” the spokesperson said.
But Michael Khoo, co-chair of the Friends of the Earth climate misinformation coalition, argues that the data “shows that Facebook and other tech platforms need to take much stronger action to limit super-spreaders and not put the burden on ordinary users. ”.
While the study focused on the Texas incident in particular, Khoo said it underscored a broader problem that Facebook is not policing climate misinformation strongly enough.
Previous studies have revealed other posts and resources that deny the climate crisis and that exceed accurate information on the platform. In June 2021, one of the most viewed Facebook sites was a subscription page for The Epoch Times, a far-right newspaper known for climate denial.
“Facebook knows the super spreaders of climate misinformation and should put an end to their repeated lies,” Khoo added. “We can’t solve social media misinformation by playing an endless game of Whac-a-Mole with known liars.”
Facebook has recently come under fire for the outsized role of “super broadcasters” in sharing disinformation on a variety of topics. In July, Joe Biden referenced a study showing that only a handful of Facebook accounts were responsible for pushing the majority of vaccine misinformation on the platform. The president accused Facebook of causing unnecessary deaths.
Facebook in March 2021 started to automatically tag posts on the climate crisis with data from its climate science information center, which is expanding amid the measures announced Thursday. Through the center, Facebook said, it connected people with “authoritative and up-to-date information on climate change.”
The features announced Thursday, Facebook said, would further reduce misinformation on the platform.
Friends of the Earth’s Khoo argued that Facebook could do much more. “For a company that makes $ 85 billion a year, a $ 1 million program that outsources the problem they have created shows that Facebook is not serious about solving climate misinformation,” he said.
Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights organization Fight for the Future, said Facebook faced other criticism when it comes to combating climate disinformation, noting that the platform had been accused of suppressing posts and information from trusted organizations in the field.
In July 2020, a prominent climate scientist said that the platform how restrictive your ability to research and verify posts that contain misinformation about the weather. The company reportedly marked the posts of the scientist’s publications as “political.”
Facebook declined to comment further.