Facebook Policy Favors Climate Denial Group

June 23, 2020

Facebook is a sewer, ok, but somebody has to go in there and push back with good info.
So I do, but I don’t enjoy it.


A team of climate scientists working as approved fact checkers for Facebook evaluated a post last year by a White House-connected group that claims the world needs to burn more fossil fuels.

The researchers found that the post by the CO2 Coalition was based on cherry-picked information to mislead readers into thinking climate science models are wrong about global warming. The post, which was published originally in the conservative Washington Examiner, was an opinion piece that had been marked as false, in accordance with Facebook’s standards. The coalition, which is funded by groups that oppose regulations on fossil fuels, was prevented from advertising on the site.

It didn’t last long.

A “conservative” Facebook employee quietly intervened, overturning the fact check, and the misinformation was no longer labeled as false, according to the CO2 Coalition. The post was free to be shared, and a new loophole was created for the coalition and other groups that attack mainstream climate science.

After the quiet decision by Facebook, the coalition says it and other groups that attack consensus climate science can share content that climate scientists have labeled as misleading because Facebook will consider it “opinion” and therefore immune to fact-checking.

The CO2 Coalition is increasingly focused on using Facebook to reach more people with its message that climate change fears are overblown and that burning more fossil fuels would help humanity, Executive Director Caleb Rossiter told E&E News this week. He sees the battle over its climate-related posts as part of a larger proxy war over how to reach an audience outside of conservative media.

“It’s a huge reach. You can reach so many people both with your posts and your advertisements,” Rossiter said. “We’re kind of like Donald Trump. We’re not happy with the treatment we’re getting from the mainstream media, we resort to social media. That’s where our action is in larger part.”

Rossiter said the coalition was also temporarily blocked from running ads after the fact-check. After the “false” label was removed from its climate models piece, the coalition is now again allowed to buy ads. It has run a number of ads with messages that distort climate change and make inflammatory statements such as “we are saving the people of the planet from the people who claim they are saving the planet.” Those ads have received more than 50,000 impressions, Facebook data shows.

The coalition wouldn’t identify the Facebook staffer who removed the false label from its op-ed.

Because media outlets rarely seek comment on climate science from groups that reject consensus research, Rossiter said, Facebook is how the coalition can get its message to a larger audience.

Last month, climate scientists again labeled a coalition video as false, and anyone sharing it will receive a warning that it contains “false information.” In that video, Pat Michaels, a climate scientist who has spent decades in Washington fighting against carbon regulations, says in an appearance on Fox News that “climate models are making systematic dramatic errors.”

Michaels told E&E News that he wants to use Facebook as a platform to reach beyond conservative audiences, to win over more people to his message that climate change is not a significant problem.

“Facebook allows reach to a really broad and diverse audience,” he said. “I view it as a platform that just doesn’t have me preaching to the converted.”

Washington clout

The CO2 Coalition already has significant reach in Washington and has spent the last year conducting outreach to members of Congress, providing them talking points to challenge climate science.

One of its founders, William Happer, served on the National Security Council at the White House and unsuccessfully tried to conduct an adversarial review of climate science. Another of its members, Mandy Gunasekara, is chief of staff at EPA.

The group is largely funded by conservative foundations that oppose regulations. It has also received funding from the Mercer family, who were top Trump donors in 2016.

Scientists have long known that rising carbon dioxide levels are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise at an unprecedented rate, which has already begun to alter life on the planet. Peer-reviewed research has shown that climate models have largely been accurate. Groups that attack climate science have long pushed the false notion that there is a debate among climate scientists on the extent of humanity’s contribution to global warming.

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment, but company officials have told The Wall Street Journal that it would not fact-check opinion or satire pieces. Facebook has come under significant scrutiny for its refusal to check the accuracy of political ads.

6 Responses to “Facebook Policy Favors Climate Denial Group”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Last year, right-wing Zuckerberg hired climate deniers for “fact checking”.

    => Facebook teams with rightwing Daily Caller in factchecking program

    Site co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson has promoted misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content

    Facebook’s controversial factchecking program is partnering with the Daily Caller, a rightwing website that has pushed misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content.

    The social network said Wednesday it had added CheckYourFact.com, which is part of the Daily Caller, as one of its US media partners in an initiative that has faced growing backlash from journalists and internal problems. The collaboration was first reported by Axios.

    Factcheckers in the program are tasked with debunking potential false stories on Facebook to help stop their spread, but some journalists have said the effort hasn’t been effective, and one of its major American partners, Snopes.com, cut ties earlier this year.

    The Daily Caller, co-founded by the far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, publishes conservative news stories and commentary and has faced repeated accusations of running false and offensive content. In January, the site was widely condemned for the way it reported on a fake nude photo of the congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and its coverage of immigration and the White House has typically aligned with Trump’s agenda.

    Check Your Fact is billed as the “fact-check department” of the Daily Caller, and the site says it is “non-partisan” and “loyal to neither people nor parties”. It has dedicated reporters rating content as true and false and says it is a for-profit subsidiary of the Daily Caller Inc, of which Carlson is a majority owner.

    This week, a Wired investigation on Facebook reported that a vice-president at the company had once argued that the Facebook newsfeed should treat the content from Daily Caller and Breitbart, another rightwing outlet, in the same manner as stories from mainstream news outlets.

    On Wednesday, Facebook’s factchecking initiative also brought on Science Feedback, a not-for-profit organization that reviews news coverage on a range of subjects, including health and climate change.

    Facebook typically pays its media partners, which has led to criticisms from journalists who say this creates a conflict of interest, given that the news outlets taking Facebook funding are also tasked with scrutinizing the company’s impact on society.

    Major factchecking sites have repeatedly debunked Daily Caller content over the years. The Daily Caller previously published articles by the white supremacist behind a far-right rally in Charlottesville, falsely labeled a Trump critic as a “porn star” and published propaganda about George Soros. A Daily Caller editor was also caught writing for an “alt-right” website under a pseudonym last year.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    Facebook creates fact-checking exemption for climate deniers

    A group with ties to the fossil fuel industry plans to use Facebook’s op-ed loophole to spread climate misinformation.

    Facebook is “aiding and abetting the spread of climate misinformation,” said Robert Brulle, an environmental sociologist at Drexel University. “They have become the vehicle for climate misinformation, and thus should be held partially responsible for a lack of action on climate change.”

  3. doldrom Says:

    Much as disinformation pains me, the only way forward is more public debate; any form of suppressing unwelcome propaganda will boomerang later to bite people in the ass. Once there are levers for information control in place (there are already far too many), it is any one’s guess who will avail themselves of those levers and to what purpose.

    • sailrick Says:

      Debates can often just give more gravitas to deniers who spread disinformation. A live debate is about being persuasive, not necessarily truthful. And the denier PR machine is good at being persuasive, while spreading nonsense. A written debate, that can be fact checked. is a different thing, something the deniers have repeatedly backed away from/

  4. Bryson Brown Says:

    Pushing back against disinformation is an uphill task– effectively refuting a false claim (especially one that fits conveniently with self-interest / short-term convenience) is hard to do (long ago I spent some time trying to argue with creationists… the only good result was that I gained a much richer understanding of the history of evolutionary thought and the evidence that supports Darwin, Wallace and their successors (Haldane, Fisher, Sewall-Wright et al.), who developed the modern statistical/genetic account of natural selection.

  5. redskylite Says:

    “Research has suggested that climate misinformation can, therefore, contribute to public confusion and political inaction, rejection of or reduced support for mitigation policies, as well as increased existing political polarisation.”


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