Facebook responds to climate activists on disinformation

Internal pre-COP letter from Nick Clegg to 16 environmental groups hides data, obscures transparency, repeats falsehoods

WASHINGTON — Environmental groups today released an internal letter from Facebook to 16 environmental groups who had sent their demands that the platform reduce climate disinformation during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. The full embargoed letter from Facebook is available to the media upon request.

“Facebook is again burning the trees while claiming it’s saving the forest,” said Michael Khoo, Climate Disinformation Co-Chair at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Facebook must disclose the data on who is driving the disinformation, and who it is affecting. As the recent leaks have shown, there are bad things hiding under Facebook’s covers.”

The letter from Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications for Facebook, cites the Friends of the Earth report on the 2021 Texas power-outage that found 99% of climate disinformation went unchecked. The letter states: “We share your concerns about the use of our services in ways that risk distorting the established consensus on climate science, delaying support for climate action, or degrading the important work of climate advocates.” But even as Clegg downplays the extent of the issue, he admits: “That’s not to say climate misinformation is a small problem.”

Khoo continued: “On the surface, it sounds fine, until you look at the real world, where known climate deniers are racking up millions of engagements. Facebook says it will ‘penalize repeat offenders,’ but gives vague definitions on what that means. Whatever definition Facebook is selling, it has failed on the only important metric–reducing climate denial.”

The Friends of the Earth report also documented the robust work of traditional media outlets in debunking climate denial, in contrast with social media platforms. 

“The data showed that Facebook has become the last bastion of climate denial. Mainstream outlets do not print climate denial, but these repeat offenders are still having a field day on social media,” said Khoo. “Many former engineers — from Sophie Zhang to Frances Haugen to the Integrity Institute — have shown that this data on harms is readily available, but Facebook has repeatedly downplayed it and refuses to be transparent.”

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]

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