Report suggests Facebook’s ad targeting tools are becoming a source of spreading climatic disinformation

Facebook is not new to controversy, and when the matters are related to its nebulous fact-checking methods and ad services, it has time and again come under the line of fire. Recently, InfluenceMap, a non-profit organization in London published a report which openly claims that Facebook is letting anti-climate groups use its ad targeting tools and is now becoming a source of spread of disinformation regarding climate and climatic changes to millions of people.

InfluenceMap obtained access to data from Facebook ads and found out that the platform allowed almost 51 campaigns causing climate disinformation to run for a considerable amount of time. These ads were viewed more than 8 million times across the entire US. in the first six months of 2020. And Facebook allowed these campaigns to run through its platform which is exactly against its own platform rules. So, this is confusing. Does Facebook not realize that something wrong is happening on its platform? Or does it not care enough to at least employ proper content moderation, ad moderation, and fact-checking policies?

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tom Carper, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Brian Schatz have not only found this report quite incriminating for Facebook; they have even tried to warn Facebook before as well by publishing a letter to urge the company to close all the loopholes in its system that let disinformation related to climate spread.

Not only climate disinformation, but Facebook also faced a file suit in March 2019 by the US. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who accused Facebook of allowing and using the platform to discriminate against people based on their identity and the place they live. Although Mark Zuckerberg tried to brush off the issue when he was questioned about it, some studies suggest that Facebook did not mend its ways and its ad practices are still quite actively involved in discriminatory actions and are a source of misinformation. InfluenceMap’s recent report further reinforces this sad reality.

Last month only, Facebook introduced its Climate Science Information Center which is meant to deal with climatic misinformation through its existing fact-checking programs. However, InfluenceMap found that this center is being exploited by anti-climate groups too.

InfluenceMap also found out that Facebook’s Ad Library identifies more than 250,000 Facebook Pages in America that use paid-for ads for the promotion of political messages.

InfluenceMap identified that these 51 advertisers are included in a list of 95 known and notorious advertisers that were previously involved with climate disinformation.

For fact-checking, Facebook employs third-party checker organizations that do not take down ads containing opinions because of freedom of speech and expression. In June 2020, E&E News reported that Facebook allowed a post containing disinformation related to climate by claiming it to be an opinion and let it pass through the fact-checking systems. InfluenceMap thinks that this is one of the loopholes in the fact-checking and ad moderation system of Facebook that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.

Some of the prominent groups with more than $42000 of ad campaign funding have been identified by InfluenceMap, and they include The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, PragerU, Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Their ad campaigns targeted the credibility and authenticity of climate science and climate science communicators and became the source of climate disinformation spread. 



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