Facebook claims to tackle climate misinformation

Image of article titled Facebook believes Buzzfeed-style quizzes will solve its climate misinformation problem

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Thursday, Facebook announcement he was taking new steps to help fight misinformation about climate change on its platform, including the creation of a grant program to invest in fact-checking initiatives worth a total of $ 1 million. (So ​​generous to throw spare change you found between your couch cushions at this problem, Mark Zuckerberg!)

It comes with a host of other announcements, but they’re a front on a real problem. A new report on social media and the power outages in Texas released the same day shows Facebook is inundated with climate misinformation that a few tweaks won’t fix. 99.1% interactions on the main publications on social networks lies about wind power causing the crashes occurred on messages without a fact check label.

“They are moving lounge chairs on the Titanic,” said Michael Khoo, who heads the disinformation campaign at Friends of the Earth, of the political news. “They’re not looking at the real issue of disinformation.”

In addition to the million dollars pledged by Facebook, the company also announced that it would expand the Climate Science Information Center it created last year to help verify publications on the site. Now, Facebook said, the feature – which they are renaming the Climate Science Center – will be updated with “additional features to better inform and engage our community on climate change,” including new climate change facts and stories. quiz to test the climate of users. awareness.

A few Buzzfeed-style quizzes around 2015 and barely $ 1 million from a company currently valued at over $ 1,000 billion doesn’t seem like much. And like the new report Friends of the Earth illustrates, Facebook’s climate misinformation problem runs deep. The report examines the disinformation that has spread to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms in the wake of the Power outages in Texas last February, six months after Facebook established the Climate Science Clearinghouse and started checking posts.

If you remember, a image of a frozen turbine spread like wildfire through right-wing social media spaces, falsely labeled as a photo of a Texas turbine during the cold snap. The lie that frozen turbines caused the blackouts was then widely picked up by Republican politicians and talking heads, powered by climate disinformation groups with ties to the oil and gas industry. (The lie had real political ramifications: Texas politicians pushed to financially monopolize renewable energies during the spring legislative session, saying their “unreliability” during the blackout meant the state needed more financial support from these industries.)

The report notes that national and local media quickly debunked the image. “Outlets usually don’t print climate denial directly anymore,” Khoo said. “But on social media, you can post this image and it accumulates millions of views. To me, that makes Facebook the last bastion of climate denial.

Facebook did their due diligence and tagged the posts with the image of the wind turbine with a fact-check tag. Friends of the Earth analysis found that around 90% of the top 10 performing messages with the actual turbine image received a fact check popup, noting that the post contained “partly false information” and directing users to verified articles in the photo. But those posts, according to the analysis, had relatively little engagement, accounting for just over 6,250 interactions – likes, comments, and shares – between them.

Meanwhile, other posts containing misinformation but no turbine photo, such as a Publish of Representative Dan Crenshaw wrongly blaming wind turbines and a Publish by Fox News in connection with a Tucker Carlson segment on turbines – were allowed to spread to a much larger audience without fact-checking tags, generating hundreds of thousands of interactions. Using Crowdtangle data on top performing Facebook posts, Friends of the Earth estimated that less than 1% of user interactions with top social media posts containing the fake wind turbine story contained a fact-checking tag. .

That number, Khoo noted, could actually be bigger or smaller because Facebook doesn’t do its fact-checking metrics or other strategies to counter disinformation, including how it decreases the flow of fake messages. , a tactic that he describe in its announcement last year — public. “It’s the frustration: the denominator is the black box,” Khoo said. “They say, ‘we’re putting less emphasis on the message,’ but that obviously doesn’t work because these numbers show it hasn’t stopped it from spreading. This report is only based on what Crowdtangle can see or what the analysis of individual posts can see.There’s a much easier number, and they don’t give it to us.

“This report makes it clear that our fact-checking partners quickly debunked the false allegations regarding the Texas storm and that we have tagged ninety percent of the top performing posts containing a false image of a wind turbine,” he said. a Facebook spokesperson said in an email. “Many of the examples cited in the report as having no labels are simply positions the organization does not agree with. We connect people to authoritative and up-to-date information on climate change through the Climate Science Center, and today we announced new features to further reduce misinformation on our platform.

Facebook and other platforms, Khoo said, could be much more aggressive in the way they approach climate denial on their platforms. Many of the most competent posters on climate denial, like Tucker Carlson, are repeat offenders. “I fully believe and I supported [Facebook], that you need to put a circle around them and move forward with removing their discussion of climate change until they are verified, ”Khoo said. “It’s not about free speech – they can talk about climate change, they just have to talk about it precisely.”

Khoo also pointed to a study showing that disinformation about the elections has fallen by more than 70% after Trump and other right-wing leaders were kicked from Twitter.

“I am a huge fan of misrepresenting known liars,” he said. “You get rid of liars, and guess what, you have fewer lies.”

Update 9/16/21 at 10:19 am ET: This article was updated with a comment from Facebook.

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