Facebook will start labeling posts about climate change with a banner that directs people to its information page on climate change. It’s the company’s latest effort to weed out lies and myths about the climate crisis, and it follows criticism from lawmakers and scientists concerned that the social media giant allowed false information to proliferate on its platform.
For now, the labels will only appear on Facebook posts in the UK. But the company plans to start rolling them out elsewhere “soon,” it said in an announcement on Thursday. Facebook debuted its “Climate Science Information Center” in the US, Germany, the UK, and France back in September. Now, Facebook is also expanding that page to include new information debunking common myths about climate change.
The company’s strategy for tackling climate misinformation is similar to what it’s done about COVID-19. Facebook started putting vetted information about the novel coronavirus at the top of its news feed last March.
Facebook came under a lot of pressure last year to do a better job at fact-checking posts about climate change and stop misleading content from spreading. The new labels seem to be one way to answer calls for Facebook to take more action, although it doesn’t address original concerns that legislators like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had about Facebook last year.
“There should be no company too big, too powerful, and too opaque to be held accountable.”
The whole saga started in August 2019 after Facebook reversed a decision by its fact-checkers to rate an op-ed as “false” for including inaccurate information and cherry-picked data on climate change. E&E News consequently reported that Facebook had created a sort of loophole that exempted opinion articles from fact checking. That’s been a part of its policy the entire time, spokespeople for Facebook have told The Verge and The New York Times.
“The future of our planet is at stake, and there should be no company too big, too powerful, and too opaque to be held accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Facebook is no exception,” Warren and other senators said in a statement last year.
Warren and others demanded that Facebook answer questions about its fact-checking policies. In a letter from Facebook shared exclusively with The Verge last year, the company maintained that “clear opinion content” wasn’t typically subject to fact-checking on their platform. It also said that “speech from politicians” was not eligible to be fact-checked in an email to The Verge last year.
“When someone posts content based on false facts — even if it’s an op-ed or editorial — it is still eligible for fact-checking and we don’t consider climate change, or any topic, opinion by definition,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an email.
Facebook hasn’t specified how it will decide which posts should carry the new “informational labels” launching in the UK today. “We’re continuing to learn from other informational labels that we’ve applied to COVID-19 posts and posts during the US election,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
Update 2/18/21 7:56pm ET: This post has been updated with an additional comment from a Facebook spokesperson.