Misinformation about the climate crisis is rampant on Facebook, according to a new study, and comes mainly from a handful of “super polluter” publishers.
Ten publishers are responsible for 69% of climate change denial digital content on Facebook, a new study from the Digital Hate Center (CCDH) found. The media, which the report calls “ten toxic”, include several conservative websites in the United States, as well as Russian state media.
Breitbart, a far-right news site once run by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon
Western Journal, a Conservative news site
Newsmax, who was previously prosecuted for encouraging electoral fraud plots
Media of the town hall, founded by the Heritage Foundation funded by Exxon
Media Research Center, a “thinktank” which received funding from Exxon
Washington Times, founded by self-proclaimed messiah Sun Myung Moon
Federalist papers, a site that promoted disinformation about the Covid
Daily thread, a conservative news site that is one of the most engaged editors on Facebook
Russian state media, pushing disinformation via RT.com and Sputnik News
Patriot post, a conservative site whose authors use pseudonyms
The Center for Countering Digital Hate used NewsWhip, a social media analytics tool, to analyze 6,983 climate crisis denial articles that appeared in Facebook posts last year.
The articles featured condemnations of the “cult of ‘climate change'” whose “cult” threatened people’s futures or told readers not to “worry too much about CO2 burning the planet”. Together, the posts generated 709,057 interactions.
Facebook strongly rejected the study in a statement, with a spokesperson saying the CCDH’s analysis “uses flawed methodology designed to mislead people about the extent of climate misinformation on Facebook.”
He added that the 700,000 interactions mentioned in the climate denial report represent 0.3% of the more than 200 million interactions on public English content on climate change from public pages and groups over the course of the year. same period.
“We continue to fight climate disinformation by reducing the distribution of anything that is deemed false or misleading by one of our fact-checking partners and by rejecting any advertisements that have been debunked,” he said. declared.
Tuesday’s study echoes previous research on what is known as “Dirty Dozen” – a group of accounts responsible for the vast majority of misinformation about Covid-19 circulating on social media. This highlights how a small number of highly read websites can impact the algorithm-based Facebook ecosystem, said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
“Facebook and other social media companies make money when they send users to climate denial burrows,” he said. “It is a very dangerous economic model for the future of the planet.”
In 2020, Facebook launched a Climate Change Science Center, which contains factual data from credible sources on the climate crisis to counter the spread of disinformation on its platforms. It also adds informational labels to some articles on the climate crisis, which direct users to the center. A Facebook spokesperson said it receives more than 100,000 visitors every day.
This resource was previously primarily intended for US users, but on Monday the company announced it was expanding its science center on climate change to more than 100 countries, tagging posts in Belgium, Brazil, India for the first time, in Indonesia, Mexico and the Netherlands. , Spain and Taiwan.
But the study’s authors ask the social media platform to go much further. They called on Facebook to stop collecting payments from posts to promote their content and to tag misinformation about the climate crisis on more posts. The study found that 92% of the most popular articles reviewed did not have a label on disinformation about the climate crisis.
The CCDH also called on Google to remove eight out of 10 posts using Google Ads to profit from their climate crisis denial content. The researchers determined that these eight posts made around $ 3.6 million from Google Ads in the past six months.
Imran Ahmed, managing director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, argued that the “bad faith disinformation” disseminated by the 10 websites is designed to undermine social media users’ trust in science. By not acting more forcefully, Ahmed said, “big technology is once again on the wrong side of science, truth and human progress.”
The deputy editor of RT, who according to the CCDH study published articles on “climate alarmism” condemning “backbiters” who thought climate change was worsening and was called “one of the leading organizations in the global political economy of disinformation, “told The Guardian that the publication” constantly raises concerns over environmental issues. ” RT “would not overlook the variety of views essential to a healthy public discourse on its effects,” said Anna Belkina.
Other websites cited in the study did not immediately respond to requests for comment.