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 WarrenDimon: Wealth tax 'almost impossible to do' CNN's Don Lemon: 'Blow up the entire system' remark taken out of context Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court MORE (Mass.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons Democrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report MORE (Del.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFeinstein 'surprised and taken aback' by suggestion she's not up for Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime House approves legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (R.I.) wrote to CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: FBI, DHS warn that foreign hackers will likely spread disinformation around election results | Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day | Trump to meet with Republican state officials on tech liability shield Facebook to 'restrict the circulation of content' if chaos results from election: report 2.5 million US users register to vote using Facebook, Instagram, Messenger 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.