Facebook’s new pledges on climate disinformation miss the point, activists say

Lies about climate change continue to fester on Facebook, environmentalists say, even as the social media giant announces new climate initiatives. The company said today that it is expanding a “Climate Science Center” with more facts, quizzes and videos. It is also investing $ 1 million in grants to groups “that fight climate disinformation.”

These efforts still do not get to the root of the problem. Trying to channel Facebook users to a “science hub” doesn’t stop climate deniers from posting false information that can spread like wildfire on the platform. And Facebook continues to accept advertising dollars from oil and gas companies.

“Facebook knows about the super-broadcasters of climate disinformation and should end their repetitive lies,” said Michael Khoo, co-chair of the climate disinformation coalition of the nonprofit Friends of the Earth (FOE), said in a press release. “Facebook and other tech platforms need to take much more stringent measures to limit super-broadcasters and not place the burden on ordinary users.”

One of the most recent episodes of misinformation about climate solutions such as renewables came during a deadly blackout and sudden cold snap in Texas last February. Social media posts incorrectly claimed that frozen wind turbines were primarily responsible for the blackouts. In fact, the intense cold hit just about every source of energy, not just renewables, and frozen natural gas infrastructure played a huge role in the blackouts.

In a new report released today, Friends of the Earth analyzed the 10 “top performing” Facebook posts falsely blaming wind turbines for power outages. Less than 1% of interactions – including likes, comments, and shares – were for posts with a fact-checking tag, which Facebook places on posts that have been reviewed by the platform’s third-party fact checkers. . FOE argues that without fact checking, disinformation can spread both inside and outside the platform to mainstream media and politics.

Facebook defends its handling of disinformation in the wake of the winter storm. “Many of the examples cited in the report as having no labels are simply positions that the [FOE] does not agree with, “Facebook said in an emailed statement to The edge.

The positions analyzed by FOE include several Fox News who quotes Tucker Carlson saying things like, “Green energy inevitably means blackouts” and “global warming is no longer a pressing concern in Houston. We have solved this problem. The bad news is they don’t have electricity. Windmills froze and the power grid broke. Neither statement is true.

Friends of the Earth also reviewed the top 10 top-performing publications that shared a viral image of a drone deicing a wind turbine. The image was taken years earlier and had nothing to do with the power outages. Ninety percent of those posts carried Facebook’s fact-checking label, according to the FOE report.

Misinformation about renewable energy online can have real-world consequences. After the disaster, Texas lawmakers blasted wind power and cited blackouts while pushing bills to increase natural gas and impose new fees on renewables.

Facebook was also criticized today for the money it makes from oil and gas advertising. “The company often talks about its commitment to tackling climate change, but it continues to allow its platform to be used by the fossil fuel industry to undermine science-based climate action,” Faye Holder , program manager at the climate and energy think tank InfluenceMap. said in a statement today.

Twenty-five oil and gas companies spent nearly $ 9.6 million on Facebook ads last year, InfluenceMap found in a report released last month. These ads have been viewed over 431 million times. Facebook rejects ads that its independent fact-checkers consider false or misleading, the company said in its email statement.

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