Facebook has added a section to its website debunking commonly-spread climate change conspiracy theories, in a bid to combat the circulation of false claims linked to the climate and environment.
The social network is updating its existing Climate Science Information Centre with facts – including that the world’s polar bear population is declining as a result of global warming and that excess levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is harming the planet’s plant life – to debunk popular climate myths.
Other facts include that recent global warming has been caused by humans and not natural events and that recent droughts and wildfires, such as the fires that devastated Australia in early 2020, have been triggered by changes in the climate.
Global warming conspiracy theories have gained traction on Facebook and YouTube in recent years, questioning whether climate change actually exists and claiming there has been no significant warming during the 21st century, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Cracking down on conspiracies
Facebook launched its Climate Science Information Centre in September last year as a hub for reliable, scientifically-backed information relating to the environment, following in the footsteps of its Coronavirus Information Centre, which went live in March 2020.
A report from think-tank InfluenceMap published in October last year found that climate change denial content on Facebook was viewed by a minimum of 8m people in the US alone during the first six months of 2020, consisting of 51 adverts making statements including that climate change is a hoax.
Of the adverts, only one had been removed by Facebook, allowing the others to run for the entirety of their scheduled time.
A Facebook spokesperson said at the time that the company prohibited adverts that include claims debunked by third-party factcheckers and said it was investigating the report’s findings.
The facts in Facebook’s debunking section will come from leading climate change organisations including the George Mason University, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the University of Cambridge.
“The spread of damaging falsehoods endangers the level of international cooperation required to prevent catastrophic global warming,” said Dr Sander van der Linden from the University of Cambridge.
“Facebook is in a unique position to counter the circulation of online misinformation, and the new climate ‘mythbusting’ section is an important step toward debunking dangerous falsehoods.”