Climate Science Disinformation in Facebook Advertising Oct 2020
Research from InfluenceMap shows that anti-climate groups are utilising Facebook’s advertising platform and unique targeting tools to spread climate disinformation.
Using a list of 95 advertisers known to have previously promoted climate disinformation, InfluenceMap identified 51 climate disinformation adverts in the US, across a six-month period starting January 2020, which gained an estimated 8 million views.
Of the 51 climate science disinformation adverts that were identified, Facebook had only taken down one at the time of research. The rest of the 50 adverts were able to run through the entirety of their planned lifespan.
Facebook uses third-party organisations to fact-check content and adverts on its platforms. However, the company has said that this process “is not meant to interfere with individual expression, opinions and debate”. InfluenceMap’s research suggests that this policy will likely allow some climate disinformation adverts to be exempt from fact-checking.
Furthermore, the research shows that the groups behind these adverts are often from sources with opaque funding. Collectively, the groups identified as using the platform to spread anti-climate adverts have a total revenue of $68 million per year.
The research shows that the groups are using an array of disinformation strategies to sow doubt on climate change. These include:
- Attacking the credibility of climate science and climate science communicators
- Denying the widespread consensus on climate science, suggesting there is a high degree of uncertainty
- Promoting alternative sources of information. Finally, the research also shows that the disinformers are taking advantage of Facebook’s target ads function, allowing advertisers to target user information such as age, gender, location, education and interests. For example, climate disinformation adverts are being promoted more to males than females across all age groups.
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