An update on Facebook's climate denial loophole

Multiple groups and activists have now taken action in response to HEATED's reporting from last week.

Hey everyone! Just wanted to give you a quick update on last week’s special edition with Judd Legum’s newsletter Popular Information.

In case you missed it, Judd and I exposed how Facebook is allowing climate science deniers to avoid the company’s fact-checking process through a quietly-created loophole for “opinion” content—and how Facebook’s loophole is helping fossil fuel interests perpetuate their campaign to delay climate action.

Our reporting is now inspiring leading political and environmental activists to take action.

Last week, Media Matters for America called on Facebook to immediately reverse its unspoken policy of exempting climate denial op-eds from fact-checking. “It should give Facebook huge pause that fringe arguments and career climate deniers embraced only by right-wing media see the social media platform as the clear vector for their content,” they wrote.

And this morning, a group of prominent activists sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Oversight Board demanding that Facebook reverse the fact-checking loophole. The activists who signed today’s letter include:

  • Stacey Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and potential Biden running mate;

  • Tom Steyer, former Democratic presidential candidate and founder of NextGen America;

  • Gina McCarthy, president of NRDC Action Fund and former EPA administrator;

  • Carol Browner, board chair of the League of Conservation Voters and former EPA administrator;

  • Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; and

  • John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress and former chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Notably, the letter from activists argues that Facebook should apply the same policy for climate misinformation as it does to misinformation about the coronavirus. After all, they are both deadly threats to public health. From the letter:

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.

The letter asks Facebook’s Oversight Board—which is run by outspoken climate activist Helle Thorning-Schmidt—to immediately take action and reverse the loophole. We'll update you if Facebook responds.

In the meantime, this is the power of independent climate accountability journalism. It not only puts pressure on purveyors of misinformation, it gives activists the information they need to step up and take meaningful action to stop it.

It also only happens because of readers like you. HEATED is 100 percent reader-funded, which allows us to be a fearless, independent voice in the fight for a livable future.

Help make our voice louder by becoming a subscriber today. And if you’re already a subscriber—thanks. You’re the freakin’ best.

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See you tomorrow!