In the bubble of “Jane” enter only climate misinformation about the environment and greenwashing
(Sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Despite the promise to change course, the Facebook algorithm still offers users climate misinformation, false or out of context about climate change and global warming. In a systematic way. Start with a like on a page that posts hoaxes about the climate. The social network immediately begins to build around the user a bubble made of misinformation, false solutions to the climate crisis, and – at best – greenwashing.
Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg’s company began to take the first steps to combat climate misinformation. In September 2020, the Climate Science Information Center, a page of climate communication experts from George Mason University, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the University of Cambridge, was launched. The goal is to direct users to this center when they happen too often in environments where hoaxes and climate misinformation thrive. The centre offers quality and reliable information on climate change.
However, the solution failed. A report by Real Facebook Oversight Board and Stop Funding Heat tested the system last November. More than a year later, the Facebook center was only doing its homework on 3% of content categorized as misinformation (misinformation) about the climate. Meanwhile, interactions on groups and pages that deny the anthropogenic contribution to climate change have grown by 75% in a year.
Global Witness hunting for climate hoaxes
After another 6 months, nothing seems really changed. Jane, a creation by Global Witness, reveals Facebook’s quarrels with climate hoaxes this time. The NGO created a profile of a fictional user, building it from scratch to evaluate the response of the social network algorithm to a few, significant actions of Jane. It all starts with a like a Global Warming Policy Forum, a page with 14 thousand followers linked, among others, to a British Member of Parliament who is very active in challenging climate neutrality policies.
This simple click is enough to drag Jane deeper and deeper into the lair of the Rabbit. Facebook’s first suggestion? Take a look at Climate Depot, a known site that relaunches climate hoaxes. And so on. Result? “Of the 18 pages recommended to Jane, only one contained no misinformation about climate. 12 of them included only climate misinformation. Of the content, we analyzed, only 22% of the climate disinformation posts” were reported as fake by the Climate Science Information Center.
Global Witness built an interpretive grid to catalog the kind of pages Facebook sent Jane to. The grid is based on the latest research on climate misinformation, divided into 9 categories depending on the type of content proposed. They range from content in all and all denialists, who say that climate change is not real or that it is not due to man, to content that responds to the “distract and delay” strategy (distract users and delay climate action) and discredit environmentalism, up to more traditional greenwashing material.
“Our survey indicates that climate-skeptical users are not only directed towards more misinformation that affirms their beliefs,” says Global Witness. “Often our user has been directed towards worse information”: starting from a page “full of narrative distract and delay”, you end up on pages that relaunch the worst conspiracy theories and hoaxes on the climate.