The Toxic Ten
Climate misinformation runs rampant on Facebook and comes mostly from a handful of publishers, according to analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published during the international climate summit COP26 in November 2021.
The publishers, labelled the ‘Toxic Ten’, were responsible for 69% of interactions with climate change denial content on Facebook. Among the Toxic Ten publishers were Breitbart, the Federalist Papers, Daily Wire and Russian state media (RT and Sputnik).
The report covers a broad range of climate disinformation, including articles that undermine the existence or impacts of climate change or misrepresent data in ways that could weaken trust in climate science experts.
Facebook is where the Toxic Ten are most prevalent, though the study identifies that the platform failed to attach fact-checking labels to 92% of the Toxic Ten content despite their promise to label posts about climate change.
Furthermore, the Toxic Ten’s websites received nearly 1.1 billion visits between 1 April – 30 September 2021, earning those that are part of Google’s Ad platform an estimated $3.6 million.
Based on the findings, CCDH lists three priority recommendations for tech platforms to adopt and implement immediately. These include:
- Stop monetising climate denial. Eight of the Toxic Ten are profiting from Google Ads. Google must remove these sites from their AdSense platform, in line with their new policy not to profit from ads on climate denial content.
- Stop profiting from climate denial. Eight of the Toxic Ten have paid Facebook to advertise their content to its users. Facebook should refuse to profit from publishers that are major spreaders of climate denial and other misinformation.
- Comprehensively label climate denial. 92% of the most popular Facebook posts promoting articles in our sample did not carry information labels. It has been six months since Facebook said it would mark posts about climate change – it must act.