Facebook Fails to Label Climate Denial, Spreads Disinformation

Facebook Fails to Label Climate Denial, Spreads Disinformation

New analysis from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) finds that Facebook (rebranded last year as Meta) is failing to identify climate disinformation. In May 2021, Facebook promised to attach "informational labels" to posts about climate change, directing users to the platform's new "Climate Science Center." But CCDH discovered that 50.5% of the most popular posts featuring climate disinformation had no label.

Center for Countering Digital Hate: Facebook doesn't take climate change seriously, February 28, 2022.

Center for Countering Digital Hate: Facebook failing to label 91% of posts containing Russian propaganda about Ukraine, February 26, 2022.

Why This Matters

Social media can be a breeding ground for climate disinformation, and climate change denial on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok is "as bad as ever." Earlier this year, analysis conducted by the Guardian and InfluenceMap, found that fossil fuel companies are spending money on Google Ads designed to look like regular search results for climate-related terms. This study shows how much social media companies have contributed to the spread of climate misinformation.

Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said in a press release:

By failing to do even the bare minimum to address the spread of climate denial information, Meta is exacerbating the climate crisis. Climate change denial -- designed to fracture our resolve and impede meaningful action to mitigate climate change -- flows unabated on Facebook and Instagram.

Al Jazeera: How dangerous is climate misinformation?, April 22, 2021.

Combatting The "Toxic Ten"

CCDH identified a list of 10 digital publishers, which they named the "Toxic Ten," whose articles accounted for about 69% of Facebook interactions with climate denial articles. Many posts from the "Toxic Ten" went unlabelled by Facebook, including articles from:

  • Breitbart that Global Warming is not real; it's a "hoax."
  • Breitbart branding a leading climate scientist a "climate alarmist."
  • Washington Times that states, "COVID-19 and climate change are being used to steal our liberties."
  • NewsBusters that refers to so-called "alarmist climate propaganda."
  • Daily Wire stating "the Left Is Spreading Global Warming Alarmism."

Meta spokesman Kevin McAlister told Reuters, "During the time frame of this report, we hadn't completely rolled out our labeling program, which very likely impacted the results."

But Michael Khoo, Co-chair of the Climate Disinformation Coalition at Friends of the Earth, emphasized that more must be done to hold Facebook accountable, saying: "Facebook has consistently shown they can't be trusted. Facebook needs to open the books and lawmakers must step in to require full transparency from them and other social media platforms."

In Other Related Facebook News…

Climate organizations are finding it difficult to expand their reach due to new ad rules limiting the platform's tool for direct targeting when it comes to specific topics. According to Facebook, climate change is considered a political topic. And under its new rules, which don't seem to apply to fossil fuel companies, NGOs are finding it more difficult to find their receptive audiences.

Center for Countering Digital Hate: The Toxic Ten, January 26, 2022.