The articles included condemnations of the “cult of ‘climate change’” whose “worship” risks people’s future or told readers not to “worry too much about CO2 baking the planet.” Together, the posts raked up 709,057 interactions.
Facebook strongly rejected the study in a statement, with a spokesman saying the analysis from CCDH “uses a flawed methodology designed to mislead people about the scale of climate misinformation on Facebook.”
He also stated that the 700,000.00 interactions mentioned in the report about climate denial are 0.3 percent of over 200 million interactions on pages and groups that contain English-language content on climate change over the same period. “We continue to combat climate misinformation by reducing the distribution of anything rated false or misleading by one of our factchecking partners and rejecting any ads that have been debunked,” he said.
Tuesday’s study echoes past research on what has come to be known as the “Dirty Dozen”—a group of accounts responsible for the vast majority of COVID-19 misinformation circulating on social media. Sheldon Whitehouse, a US senator said that the study shows just how big an impact a few websites can have on the algorithm-driven Facebook ecosystem. “Facebook and other social media companies make money when they send users down rabbit holes of climate denial,” he said. “That’s a very dangerous business model for the future of the planet.”
Facebook launched the Climate Change Science Center in 2020. This center contains factual information from credible sources about the climate crisis to counter the spread of misinformation. It also adds informational labels on some posts about climate crisis to direct users to the center. Facebook claimed that it receives more than 100,000 users per day, according to a spokesperson.
This resource was originally targeted at US users. However, on Monday, the company announced that it was expanding its Climate Change Science Center into more than 100 countries and labeling posts in Brazil, India, Indonesia.
But the study’s authors are asking the social media platform to go much further. They asked Facebook to stop paying publications for their content and to label misinformation on the climate crisis in a wider number of posts. The study showed that 92 per cent of the most viewed articles did not contain a label referring to climate crisis misinformation.
CCDH also asked Google to remove eight publications that were using Google Ads in order to profit from climate crisis denial content. These eight publications were estimated to have earned $3.6 million in Google Ads over the past six months, according to researchers.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, argued that the “bad faith misinformation” pushed by the 10 websites is designed to undermine social media users’ confidence in science. By not acting more forcefully, Ahmed said, “big tech is once again on the wrong side of science, truth and human progress.”
The websites mentioned in the study didn’t immediately respond to our requests for comment.