Story at a glance
- Only a handful of outlets are responsible for most of the climate crisis misinformation posted to Facebook, according to a study.
- Facebook said the report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate used a flawed methodology to mislead people about the “scale of climate misinformation on Facebook.”
- Facebook failed to label 92 percent of content from the “toxic ten” as misleading, according to the CCDH report.
A handful of “super polluter” publishers are mostly to blame for widespread misinformation about the climate crisis on Facebook, according to new research.
Ten publishers, among them the far-right news site Breitbart, once headed by ex-Trump advisor Steve Bannon, are responsible for nearly 70 percent of climate change denial on Facebook, according to a study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The “toxic ten” include several conservative U.S. outlets and Russian state media, according to the report.
Using the social media analytics tool NewsWhip, the CCDH, a British non-profit organization that campaigns for big tech companies to suspend services for individuals promoting hate and misinformation online, analyzed 6,983 climate change denial articles posted to Facebook over the last year.
One article published by the Federalist Papers, which also promotes COVID-19 misinformation, claimed that leftists “use climate change to scare people into submission” and their predictions have been “wrong every time.”
Another, from Newsmax, a pro-Trump outlet that was sued this year for promoting election fraud conspiracies, questioned mainstream climate science and told readers not to “worry too much about CO2 baking the planet.”
In a statement to The Guardian, Facebook said the CCDH analysis “uses a flawed methodology designed to mislead people about the scale of climate misinformation on Facebook.”
A Facebook spokesperson said the more than 700,000 interactions mentioned in the report on climate denial represent just 0.3 percent of the more than 200 million interactions on climate content from English-language Facebook pages and public groups over the same time period.
The study’s authors called on Facebook to stop taking payment from the outlets named in the report to promote their content and to expand labeling of misinformation to a larger number of posts.
Facebook, which changed its name to Meta last week, launched the Climate Change Science Center last year to connect users with factual information on the climate crisis. It’s also responsible for adding labels to some posts on climate change that may not be accurate.
Facebook failed to label 92 percent of posts containing “toxic ten” content, according to the CCDH.
The CCDH report mirrors findings from previous studies which found that a small group of Facebook accounts were responsible for spreading the majority of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, labeling them the “disinformation dozen.”
The majority of the “toxic ten” are funded by Google Ad revenue, and together made up to $5.3 million in Google Ads revenue in just six months, according to the CCDH.
“Facebook and other social media companies make money when they send users down rabbit holes of climate denial,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement. “That’s a very dangerous business model for the future of the planet.”
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