September 17, 2021

Facebook to add labels to climate change posts

Facebook will add labels to posts related to climate change, as part of its ongoing attempt to wrangle misinformation spreading on the platform. 

Amid the chaos that is Facebook’s news ban in Australia, the social media giant announced the new feature on Thursday in a blog post

First rolling out in the UK with plans to expand to other countries, the labels will be added to “some posts on climate” and direct people to Facebook’s Climate Science Information Centre which launched in September. It’s a dedicated Page with the same format as Facebook’s COVID-19 Info Center, but this one is filled with resources on climate change from leading organisations. 

Facebook did not further detail the type of posts that will be labelled in its announcement, and it’s not clear how climate change-related opinion pieces, peer-reviewed studies, and news stories are going to be classified under this new strategy. As The New York Times reported in July last year, “under the company’s guidelines, climate content can be classified as opinion and therefore exempted from fact-checking procedures.”

Mashable has reached out to Facebook for clarification as to the types of post that will be labelled, and how the company is determining this. We’ll update this post if we hear back. 

In addition to these new labels, Facebook is adding a “common myths” section to the centre, with assistance from climate communication experts from the University of Cambridge, George Mason University, and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. 

“We added a section that features facts that debunk common climate myths — including too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere harms the earth’s plant life and polar bear populations are declining because of global warming,” reads Facebook’s blog post.

Climate change resources sitting in Facebook's dedicated Climate Science Information Centre.

Climate change resources sitting in Facebook’s dedicated Climate Science Information Centre.

Image: facebook

“The spread of damaging falsehoods endangers the level of international cooperation required to prevent catastrophic global warming,” said Dr. Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge, in a press statement. 

“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.”

Facebook’s Climate Science Information Centre is already available in the UK, the U.S., France, and Germany, and will now reach Belgium, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa, and Taiwan.  

While slapping labels on misleading and inaccurate climate change content is at least a step in the right direction, it can’t immediately undo the damage that’s been done by Facebook over years of unchecked climate misinformation on the site, not to mention climate change denial ads seen by millions on the site

So, it’s undeniably a good move, but a very, very late one.

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