Facebook has revealed itself as an enemy in the effort to avert catastrophic climate change, U.S. climate hawks say, following its stunning acknowledgement that it isn’t concerned about whether the material people share through its ubiquitous social media platform is actually true.
“When it comes to efforts to avert catastrophic climate change, Facebook is no ally. They are an enemy,” Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann told Joe Romm on the Think Progress climate blog.
The comment came after Facebook refused to take down a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), even after admitting that it had been altered to wrongly imply she was drunk or slurring her words. “We don’t have a policy that stipulates that the information you post on Facebook must be true,” the company told the Washington Post.
“We think it’s important for people to make their own informed choice about what to believe,” added Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “Our job is to make sure that we are getting them accurate information. And that’s why we work with over 50 fact-checking organizations around the world.”
But even though Facebook said it would “heavily reduce” the video’s circulation, it can still be distributed by anyone who’s already seen it. Romm notes that “this new fiasco comes just weeks after Facebook hired an arm of the conservative, anti-science media site The Daily Caller, funded in part by Charles and David Koch, to serve as the company’s newest ‘fact checkers.’”
Which led Romm to ask climate advocates whether they thought Facebook was helping or hindering their work.
“Facebook is complicit in spreading outright falsehoods and misinforming the public about matters of public concern,” replied environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, noting that its refusal to take down the fake Pelosi video contributes “to the decline of public discourse.”
“This shows that Facebook is in fact complicit with bad actors seeking to spread disinformation throughout the Internet,” Mann agreed. “We must view them now as another tool in the toolbox used by fossil fuel interests and plutocrats to confuse the public and policy-makers.”And “there’s more,” tweeted Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. “The article doesn’t even mention how FB quietly classified ‘clean energy’ and ‘climate change’ as political topics last summer.” The result is that Hayhoe can’t distribute her popular Global Weirding video series unless she registers as a political entity—something she won’t be doing, since “science isn’t blue or red [the signature colours of the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties], no matter what FB says.”