By Anders Lorenzen
This blog has previously discussed the problems tech giants have in getting to grips with climate denial. But on no platform is this more concerning than with the world’s largest social media platform: Facebook. Despite its much-hyped war with ‘fake news’, climate denial is still thriving on the platform. Facebook have proudly declared that they’re hiring a veritable army of independent fact checkers, but those fact checkers are only as good as their personal beliefs. ‘Fake news’ is only fake if these faceless box-tickers deem it so. Remarkably, climate change denial doesn’t appear to qualify.
Recently a video by climate denier Marc Morano went viral on Facebook. In it, he not only questions the scientific reality of human-induced climate change but also labels it a liberal political conspiracy – a tactic ripped straight from Trump’s Twitter playbook. So far the video has amassed 6.6 million views and been shared over 100,000 thousand times. The fake news of climate change has gone viral – enabled by Facebook’s scrupulous algorithms.
By contrast, educational videos, based on genuine climate science, risked been silenced by Facebook. For instance, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who hosts the YouTube show called Global Weirding, recently tweeted that one of their episodes had been turned down for promotion on Facebook because it had “too much political content”.
Several propaganda Facebook channels that spread ‘fake news’ and misinformation on the social media network, do not appear to have suffered from Facebook’s war on ‘fake news’.
Think Progress recently reported that a Facebook bias study is to be conducted by right-wing corporate lobby groups. This does not bode well for Facebook’s war on fake news – especially of the climate denialist sort. In an article last month also for Think Progress, Joe Romm pointed out that while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that the platform will not shut down denialist content, its fact-checkers will ensure it doesn’t spread widely. But, as Romm points out, this leads to one major flaw: many of Facebook’s partner organisations, who influence the fact-checking process, do, in fact, deny the reality of climate change.
It seems we live in a puzzling conundrum: the evidence for the destructive reality of man-made climate change, in the form of freak weather, is getting ever harder to deny. Yet what is arguably the world’s largest news platform is comfortable with misleading the public about the reality of the science behind climate change. Maybe Facebook should try and abide by Google’s motto: ‘don’t be evil’.