Facebook ads promoted debunked information on Australia fires
Facebook has taken down an ad from the conservative organization PragerU that contained misinformation about deadly wildfires in Australia — but only took the action days after a formal fact-checking review was completed.
BuzzFeed News reported that a Facebook ad linking to videos from PragerU’s YouTube channel pertaining to wildfires devastating communities in southeastern Australia was taken down after numerous inquiries from the news service, four days after its own internal review service found the ads to contain misinformation.
Facebook officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Hill or BuzzFeed as to why the ads remained up after the review. The videos, hosted on PragerU’s YouTube page, erroneously suggested that record-setting wildfires in the country were caused entirely by arson, and not exacerbated by climate change as experts have said.
Screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed indicated that PragerU spent thousands of dollars to promote the ads on Facebook; PragerU is a top advertiser on the platform.
Experts agree that climate change has been a factor in the Australia fires. New South Wales Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins wrote in November that the fires were “burning in places and at intensities never before experienced.” He went on in an op-ed to blame “an established long-term trend driven by a warming, drying climate.”
“The long-term warming has increased the frequency and severity of severe heat across the world,” Stanford University climate professor Noah Diffenbaugh added in a statement to The Hill.
“When low precipitation conditions do occur, they’re more likely to co-occur with high temperature and that combination … elevates wildfire risk. And that is exactly what we’re seeing in Australia right now.”
At least 27 people have been killed in Australia’s fires since September as the blazes have burned an area of the country the size of Indiana.