07.17.2020

Democrats chide Facebook over climate disinformation

By Rachel Frazin

A group of Democratic senators is expressing concerns over reports that Facebook is exempting climate change misinformation from fact-checking. 

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tom Carper (Del.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg after E&E News reported that the company may consider climate information scientists have called misleading “opinion” and make it free from fact-checking. 

“Allowing the spread of climate disinformation on Facebook is wholly inconsistent with your company’s June 2020 claims that it is ‘committed to fighting the spread of false news on Facebook and Instagram’ — and represents another unfortunate example of Facebook’s refusal to fully combat the deliberate spread of misinformation,” the lawmakers wrote this week. 

They asked Zuckerberg to tell them by July 31 whether the company has a fact-checking loophole for climate denial, as well as how its climate fact-checking differs from other issues like the coronavirus.

The company says it doesn’t consider climate change to be an opinion and that opinion content is not exempt from fact-checking.

“Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers can and do rate climate science content — there has never been a prohibition against doing so,” a company spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

“When someone posts content based on false facts — even if it’s an op-ed or editorial — it is still eligible for fact-checking,” the spokesperson added. “We’re working to make this clearer in our guidelines so our fact checkers can use their judgment to determine whether it is an attempt to mask false information under the guise of opinion.”

Last month, a group called the CO2 Coalition told E&E News that a conservative Facebook employee overturned a fact check of one of its posts that was characterized as misleading by climate scientists. 

E&E also reported that the group was temporarily halted from buying ads after its initial fact check, but was able to run them once the false label was taken off its post. 

The CO2 Coalition group seeks to promote carbon dioxide and cast doubt about climate science. 

CO2 Coalition director Caleb Stewart Rossiter later criticized the E&E article as an “opinion piece masquerading as news story” in a statement. 

There is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is real and largely human-caused. 

“Human activities have contributed substantially to climate change by adding CO2 and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This article appeared on The Hill website at
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/507865-democrats-chide-facebook-over-climate-disinformation

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