Political, Environmental Leaders Urge Facebook Oversight Board to Close Loophole for Climate Deniers
Washington, D.C. – Today, more than a dozen leading political and environmental activists wrote to the Facebook Oversight Board demanding that Facebook shut down a loophole the company created that allows climate deniers to circumvent independent fact-checkers to publish lies and misinformation.
Last week, E&E, HEATED, and Popular Information published reports that detail how Facebook – which has a partnership with an independent organization of climate scientists as part of its broader third-party fact-checking process – allows its staffers to overrule the scientists to make climate disinformation ineligible for fact-checking by deeming it ‘opinion.’
“The integrity of the Oversight Board is at risk. Mark Zuckerberg has refused to recognize that he must get the facts right on climate, and refused to acknowledge that climate denial on his platform is as dangerous a threat to future generations as any,” wrote the letter signers. “We are asking you to lead the charge to fix this. Until Facebook takes a stand, climate denial groups such as the CO2 Coalition will continue to exploit your platform to sow discord and put our nation’s health and security at dire risk.”
The letter is signed by Stacey Abrams, Founder of Fair Fight and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, LaTricea Adams, President, Black Millennials 4 Flint, Ken Berlin, President and CEO, Climate Reality Action Fund, Carol Browner, League of Conservation Voters Board Chair and Former EPA Administrator, Dominique Browning, Senior Director & Co-Founder of Moms Clean Air Force, Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, Gerald Butts, President of New Climate and former Principal Secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alex Cornell du Houx, Co-Founder and President of Elected Officials to Protect America, Abbie Dillen, Earthjustice President, Ken Kimmell, President of Union of Concerned Scientists, Lori Lodes, Climate Power 2020 Executive Director, Gina McCarthy, President, and CEO of the NRDC Action Fund and former EPA Administrator, Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, 350.org North America Director, Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President, Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth U.S. President, John Podesta, Founder of the Center for American Progress, Tom Steyer, Climate Activist and Founder of NextGen America, Robert Wendelgass, President and CEO, Clean Water Action, and Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society.
According to the report, Facebook created the opinion loophole for climate change content at the request of the CO2 Coalition – an organization with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and a long record of promoting debunked claims about climate change.
The letter is addressed to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the former prime minister of Denmark and co-chair of the Facebook Oversight Board. Thorning-Schmidt is an outspoken advocate for climate action.
Facebook claims that it recognizes “the urgency of climate change” and “is committed to help tackle this global challenge,” but in reality, the company has given in to climate science deniers and allowed its platform to become a hub for climate misinformation and conspiracies.
“By allowing climate misinformation to go unchecked, Facebook is actively putting the health and well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable low-income communities and communities of color at risk,” the letter states.
The full text of the letter to Facebook Oversight Board Co-Chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt is available here and included below.
July 1, 2020
To: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Facebook Oversight Board
Cc: Mark Zuckerberg, Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, Evelyn Aswad, Endy Bayuni, Catalina Botero-Marino, Katherine Chen, Nighat Dad, Jamal Greene, Pamela Karlan, Tawakkol Karman, Maina Kiai, Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Ronaldo Lemos, Michael McConnell, Julie Owono, Emi Palmor, Alan Rusbridger, András Sajó, Nicolas Suzor, Nick Clegg
In the four years you served Denmark as Prime Minister, you saw the effects of CO2 on climate change first hand. You made this dire challenge central to your tenure; you took action and asked other leaders to do the same. You made bold and ambitious commitments to achieve 100% renewable energy. You were celebrated for affirming the urgent necessity of acting to halt climate change.
Above all, you told the world that climate change is not “an opinion.” It is fact.
Facebook is allowing the spread of climate misinformation to flourish, unchecked, across the globe. Instead of heeding the advice of independent scientists and approved fact-checkers from Climate Feedback, Facebook sided with fossil fuel lobbyists by allowing the CO2 Coalition to take advantage of a giant loophole for “opinion” content. The loophole has allowed climate denial to fester by labeling it “opinion,” and thus, avoiding the platform’s fact-checking processes.
Facebook knows how to take action against misinformation. When COVID-19 denial took hold on the platform, it was forcibly shut down because Facebook understood that the spread of COVID-19 misinformation could cause imminent physical harm to the health and well-being of Facebook users. Climate denial and misinformation are also deadly. By allowing climate misinformation to go unchecked, Facebook is actively putting the health and well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable low-income communities and communities of color at risk.
You and the Oversight Board must step in and enact the same standard for the denial of climate change as you did for COVID-19 misinformation.
The integrity of the Oversight Board is at risk. Mark Zuckerberg has refused to recognize that he must get the facts right on climate, and refused to acknowledge that climate denial on his platform is as dangerous a threat to future generations as any.
We are asking you to lead the charge to fix this. Until Facebook takes a stand, climate denial groups such as the CO2 Coalition will continue to exploit your platform to sow discord and put our nation’s health and security at dire risk.
When you were Prime Minister, you knew for certain that climate change was fact, not opinion, and needs to be treated as such. In your current role as an overseer of Facebook’s dangerous misinformation practice, our plea is grave: please, Ms. Thorning-Schmidt, take action now.