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Voters want Facebook to be accountable for climate misinformation, poll finds

Most Republicans and most Democrats agree

French President Emmanuel Receives Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer And Founder Of Facebook Inc At Elysee Palace
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris, France after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on May 10, 2019. Macron and Zuckerberg discussed the spread of misinformation and hate speech.
Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

A majority of polled voters, 64 percent, think Facebook should be held accountable for failing to warn users about opinion articles that spread misinformation about climate change, according to a survey by the think tank Data for Progress. Fifty-nine percent of respondents believe social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, ought to label opinion articles containing false information about science and climate change.

The poll, which included a group of 1,318 people representative of the voting population in the US, was first published by journalist Emily Atkin. Atkin published the results this morning on her newsletter, Heated, after readers submitted questions for the poll.

The poll comes on the heels of a high-profile moderation incident that called Facebook’s impartiality into question for many critics. Last August, Science Feedback reviewed an article from the Washington Examiner op-ed that used inaccurate information and cherry-picked datasets to cast doubt on the accuracy of climate change models. Science Feedback’s experts determined that the article was “highly misleading” and rated it as false.

That rating should have reduced its reach on Facebook. But the CO2 Coalition, a group that that rejects mainstream climate science and posted the Washington Examiner article, put up a fight. Ultimately, it convinced Facebook to remove the “false” rating, E&E News reported in June.

“Placing statements that are verifiably false in an opinion section shouldn’t grant immunity from fact-checking,” Scott Johnson, science editor of the organization Science Feedback, told The New York Times this month. Science Feedback is one of Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers that helps it “identify and review false news.”

Even a majority of Republicans believed that Facebook should take more responsibility, despite increasing polarization around both climate change and platform moderation. Sixty percent of Republicans said they either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that the platform should be held accountable for climate change misinformation, according to the Data for Progress poll, compared to 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independent voters.

Facebook will face more heat in a congressional hearing tomorrow where lawmakers are expected to also grill Amazon, Google, and Apple over antitrust issues. Yesterday, more than 30 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Reddit, calling on them to clamp down on climate denial, as reported by E&E News.

“With the consequences of inaction towards climate change becoming ever more catastrophic and dire, we believe you have a responsibility to your users to stop those seeking to blur the lines between facts based on climate science and those peddling pseudoscience,” the letter said.