Facebook announces UK trial to tackle climate misinformation


Facebook has said it will start labelling misinformation about the climate crisis in a small trial limited to the UK.

Labels will be attached to certain posts directing users to Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center, a repository of fact-checked claims about the environment.

The company has not yet said how it will decide which posts receive the label, but the process is similar to that used in the US election when it attempted to algorithmically discern posts that shared common myths or misconceptions, and appended a link taking users to a “voting information centre”.

A new section of the Climate Science Information Center, launching alongside the labelling trial, debunks common myths such as the false claim that polar bear populations are not suffering due to global heating, or the widespread belief that excess carbon emissions help plant life. Facebook is working with climate communication experts from around the world, including at the University of Cambridge, to produce the content.

Dr Sander van der Linden, a Cambridge academic who has worked with Facebook on the centre, said: “The spread of damaging falsehoods endangers the level of international cooperation required to prevent catastrophic global warming. Facebook is in a unique position to counter the circulation of online misinformation, and the new climate ‘myth-busting’ section is an important step toward debunking dangerous falsehoods.”

The project marks a rare foray for Facebook into directly combating misinformation on its platform. Typically the company handles the issue through an arms-length partnership with third-party factcheckers such as the UK’s Full Fact, who are empowered to mark claims as true or false, which then leads to sharing being suppressed on Facebook’s platform.

With the climate science labelling, Facebook is in effect reversing a position stated in 2019 in which it overturned a third-party factcheck that had marked an opinion piece as “false” for spreading climate falsehoods. Facebook’s policy exempts comment articles from factchecking, which led to criticism in 2020 from US senators including Elizabeth Warren.

“The climate crisis is too important to allow blatant lies to spread on social media without consequence,” the senators wrote at the time. “Without action to address the crisis, the risks from climate change will continue to grow for political and financial systems around the world.”