Facebook’s New Climate Center Won’t Solve Its Misinformation Problem
header-image

As with Facebook’s COVID and 2020-election initiatives, the social media giant is taking positive steps to promote climate facts and useful information—yet remains wary of removing false posts.

Facebook on Tuesday announced it is establishing an online information center for climate change, which—like the company’s COVID information center—purports to cut through the noise of lies, distortions, and disinformation to provide hard scientific facts about an ongoing crisis. But as with some of the social media giant’s recent initiatives, the move is a step in the right direction that hardly goes far enough to address the full scope of the problem.

The company has been sharply criticized for its handling of misleading and false content related to global warming, with hard science more or less lumped together with lies, industry statements, and conspiracy theories. In an apparent effort to address the issue, or at least to get critics off its back as devastating natural disasters across the United States bring the climate threat to the fore, Facebook announced it is adding to its platform a hub of reliable, fact-based information about climate science. “Climate change is real,” the company said in a statement. “The science is unambiguous and the need to act grows more urgent by the day. As a global company that connects more than 3 billion people across our apps every month, we understand the responsibility Facebook has and we want to make a real difference.”

In addition to connecting users to “facts, figures and data” from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other credible sources, Facebook also announced that it will “achieve net zero carbon emissions and be 100% supported by renewable energy this year.” “We believe a lot of our users are particularly interested in climate science,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, told NBC News. “[There is] a very strong political push around the world for more action.”

The resource center will be modeled after the one the company launched for the coronavirus as dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories ran rampant on the platform. But while Facebook has appeared unusually willing to combat pandemic misinformation by removing or labeling inaccurate posts—though it’s not clear its efforts have been effective—it seems Mark Zuckerberg and Co. plan to continue their typical hands-off approach to bunk climate claims outside the information center. While it will label misleading content, it’ll still largely avoid removing false posts. “As with all types of claims debunked by our fact-checkers, we reduce the distribution of these posts in News Feed and apply a warning label on top of these posts both on Facebook and Instagram so people understand that the content has been rated false,” the company said.

That likely leaves a great deal of misinformation on the platform to muddy the waters, but it is in keeping with Zuckerberg’s preferred approach. He has long insisted that he does not want to be the “arbiter of truth”—a position that allows him to sidestep tricky questions of social responsibility and free speech. Of course, not taking a position is still taking a position, and in effectively treating all speech as the same, he’s allowed bad actors to pump conspiracy theories, hate, and lies into the bloodstream of American discourse. His recent initiatives, following fierce criticism, have at least been something. But they’ve also tended to be half-measures, like the new political ad policy he announced earlier this month. Zuckerberg said the company will prohibit new political ads on the platform in the week leading up to the election, on the grounds that fact-checkers won’t have adequate time to vet the posts, to prevent disinformation before Americans take to the polls. But that policy still leaves plenty of loopholes for candidates like Donald Trump to peddle some of his trademark lies. It doesn’t ban misleading ads outright, after all—it seems candidates could still put forth lies, as long as they do so early enough. Distinguishing between fact and fiction on climate change is an important step for Facebook. But it still leaves one to wonder why it is allowing the fiction at all.

— Melania Trump Sounds a Lot Like Her Husband in Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s New Book
— How Trump’s Handling of White Supremacists Could Create a Homegrown Crisis
— Ashley Etienne May Be Biden’s Deadliest Weapon Against Trump
— What’s the Reality Behind Netflix Hit Selling Sunset?
How to Abolish the Police, According to Josie Duffy Rice
— The Pandemic Is Creating an Endless Summer in the Hamptons
— From the Archive: The Perks and Perils of Being Donald Trump’s Daughter

Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.

From: VANITYFAIR