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Facebook expands program to combat climate lies




Facebook is expanding the geographical reach of its recently launched online portal to counter climate change misinformation and will take new steps to direct platform users to those resources.

Why it matters: Social media platforms have a large reach and they have been criticized by activists and some lawmakers around the world for doing too little to prevent the spread of inaccurate content.

News direction: Facebook on Thursday morning unveiled some changes to the Climate Science Information Center that first launched in September. The platform directs users to the site when searching for climate-related terms. Changes and additions include …

  • Making Facebook users available in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa and Taiwan. Initially launched in the US, UK, Germany and France.
  • Where it is not available, Facebook is directing users to the UN Environment Program.
  • The site has added a section that aims to debunk specific myths about climate change designed in consultation with experts from Yale, George Mason and Cambridge University.
  • Facebook is launching a UK program, which it plans to expand, starting to add tags to some users’ posts about the climate that take them to the Center.

What they are saying: We want to expose people to information that helps them interpret and respond to common myths about climate change they may encounter, says Axios Edward Palmieri, Facebook’s director of sustainability.

  • John Cook, a George Mason University climate communications expert who works with Facebook, said research shows that simply saying the information is wrong is not enough.
  • You also need to explain why or how it is wrong. This is important from a psychological point of view, Cook said of the new myth-striking section of the climate portal.

Por, por, por: It is unclear how the new efforts will stand up to climate activists who say the social media giant should go further by disrupting direct posts by organizations denying man-made climate change.

  • Facebook officials, for their part, note that they have a fact-checking initiative that runs in parallel with the online portal and take steps to tag and restrict the distribution of misinformation posts without completely mixing them up.

Our thought bubble: It’s relatively easy to set up an information center on a busy topic, notes Axio’s chief technology correspondent Ina Fried. But the hardest and most important job is preventing misinformation, something Facebook has tried to do on many issues.

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