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Arbiter of truth: Facebook plans to flag and debunk misinformation about climate change

After debunking misinformation about COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election results, Facebook will now be the arbiter of truth about climate change. The social network will begin flagging and debunking climate change myths.

Facebook released a statement Thursday stating that the social media platform will “add informational labels to some posts on climate,” and direct users to the Facebook Climate Science Information Center, a resource that provides “science-based news, approachable information and actionable resources from the world’s leading climate change organizations.”

Previously, Facebook rolled out its Voting Information Center in August and the Coronavirus Information Center in March to combat news the company deemed to be misinformation.

“To debunk the myths with current and specific facts, we’ve brought in climate communication experts from the George Mason University, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the University of Cambridge,” Facebook said.

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“The spread of damaging falsehoods endangers the level of international cooperation required to prevent catastrophic global warming,” said Sander van der Linden of the University of Cambridge. “Facebook is in a unique position to counter the circulation of online misinformation, and the new climate ‘mythbusting’ section is an important step toward debunking dangerous falsehoods.”

“Developing rebuttals based on the best-practices from communication research is an important step toward countering online misinformation,” said Dr. John Cook of George Mason University.

Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication said, “Misinformation about climate change long predates the internet, but has been greatly amplified in our new digital world. This new mythbusting section of the Facebook Climate Science Information Center can help raise public climate change awareness and understanding worldwide.”

In May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that privately owned digital platforms should not act as the “arbiter of truth.” The pro-free speech comment was made after Twitter fact-checked a tweet by then-President Donald Trump.

“We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this,” Zuckerberg told the “Daily Briefing” host Dana Perino. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

The climate change fact-checking will begin in the U.K. and will expand into other countries soon. The Facebook Climate Science Information Center is currently available in 16 countries.

Facebook is banned in China, so the Climate Science Information Center will not be available to the world’s biggest polluter. China is responsible for nearly a third of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions – over 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions, almost double that of the United States, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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