The Climate Divide: How Facebook’s Algorithm Amplifies Climate Disinformation
This report by Global Witness finds that Facebook is failing to live up to its pledges on climate disinformation, and is actually amplifying scepticism rather than driving its users towards reliable content.
Researchers simulated experiences of climate-sceptic users on the platform, finding in a majority of cases that within a few clicks Facebook’s algorithm began recommending content including climate disinformation.
This content promoted the following theories:
- The climate crisis is a hoax
- Rising temperatures are part of natural cycles
- Environmentalists are alarmists
- Climate scientists are biassed
- Warming models are inaccurate
- Mitigation solutions won’t work or are otherwise bad for society
In total 18 pages were recommended in the simulation, with only one not containing any climate disinformation. Worryingly, two-thirds of the pages were exclusively dedicated to climate disinformation.
The findings come despite Facebook’s promise to crackdown on climate disinformation on its platform, having set up a ‘Climate Science Centre‘ built to “connect people with science-based information on climate change”.
Based on the results of the study, Global Witness outlines a separate set of recommendations to governments and social media companies.
Recommendations to governments:
- The European Union ensures that the DSA’s platform audits and risk assessment processes are comprehensive and routinely include climate disinformation.
- Governments elsewhere in the world – notably the United States – follow the lead of the European Union and legislate to regulate Big Tech companies, including through audits, risk-assessments and algorithmic transparency requirements.
Recommendations to social media companies:
- Facebook and all social media companies produce transparent, public-facing plans to meaningfully reduce the spread of climate disinformation on their platforms.
- Facebook and other social media platforms monitor and report on climate disinformation.