An estimated 45,000 posts on Facebook have downplayed or denied the climate crisis which have received a combined total of between 818,000 and 1.36 million views, says a new analysis. The report by Real Facebook Oversight Board, an independent watchdog group, and the environmental non-profit Stop Funding Heat coincides with the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
It analyzed a dataset of more than 195 Facebook pages and groups using the platform’s analytics too CrowdTangle. With names like “Climate Change is Natural”; “Climate Change is Crap”; and “Climate Realism” – the groups primarily shared memes denying climate change exists and deriding politicians attempting to address it through legislation.
Sean Buchan, the research and partnerships manager for Stop Funding Heat, said this rampant spread of climate misinformation is getting substantially worse. The report highlighted that interactions per post in its dataset have increased 76.7% in the past year. “If it continues to increase at this rate, this can cause significant harm in the real world,” he said.
However, a Facebook spokesman said not all posts flagged in the report represented disinformation. “We are focused on reducing actual climate misinformation on our platform, which is why we partner with a global network of factcheckers and reduce the distribution of anything they rate as false or misleading and reject any ads that have been debunked. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, on Tuesday announced that the center would expand to include more countries and information labels.
According to the study, the Climate Change Science Center receives about 100,000 daily visits globally, while Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly active users. As such, activists are calling on the US Congress, the UK parliament and the EU parliament to pass legislation targeting Facebook’s massive power in light of its ability to stem climate misinformation.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, in an official statement, said Facebook cannot and will not police themselves. “We need real, independent, transparent outside oversight and regulation, and an investigation into all of Facebook’s activities, including the dangerous spread of climate disinformation.
The report pointed out that misinformation on Facebook, about climate change and other issues, is largely driven by a small number of sources. It found 78% of the advertising spending identified came from just seven pages, all of which were flagged one year ago in a previous report. Facebook had previously declined to remove the pages.