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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 Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns Warren says she'll run for reelection to Senate MORE (Mass.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBiden to go one-on-one with Manchin Strengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths DC mayor admitted to Democratic governors group amid statehood fight MORE (Del.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats face big headaches on Biden's T spending plan Democrats introduce bill to give hotels targeted relief Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJudge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package MORE (R.I.) wrote to CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergBipartisan attorneys general urge Facebook to scrap planned Instagram for kids Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' Oversight Board achieving what government cannot 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.