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Democrats chide Facebook over climate disinformation

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

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief Tim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat MORE (Mass.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE (Del.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzFor platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Senate Democrats rebuke GOP colleagues who say they'll oppose Electoral College results 11 Senate Republicans say they will oppose Electoral College results Wednesday MORE (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts MORE (R.I.) wrote to CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergMarkey questions Facebook on 'failed commitment' to stop recommending political groups Hillicon Valley: Biden names acting chairs to lead FCC, FTC | Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review | Judge denies request for Amazon to immediately restore Parler Facebook to extend Trump ban pending review MORE 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. 

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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. 

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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.

Updated at 4:43 p.m.