A new study links majority of misinformation about the climate crisis to ten US-based and Russian-state media outlets, fueled by Facebook and Google.
Ten publishers are responsible for more than two-thirds of digital climate change denial content on Facebook, a new study from the non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found.
The outlets, which the report labels the “Toxic Ten,” include several right-wing websites in the US, as well as Russian state media.
They include far-right news site Breitbart; conservative news site Western Journal; conservative media outlet Newsmax; conservative think tank Heritage Foundation-founded Townhall Media; ExxonMobil-funded Media Research Center; conservative daily The Washington Times; conservative online magazine The Federalist; right-wing news site The Daily Wire; conservative news digest Patriot Post; and Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik News.
Using the social media analytics tool NewsWhip, CCDH analysed nearly 7,000 climate crisis denial articles that were featured in Facebook posts over the last year with 709,057 interactions in total.
The analysis found that 69 percent of Facebook users’ interactions with climate denial content came from the ten publishers listed above.
Two of them – Townhall Media and Media Research Center – have links to funding from the fossil fuel industry.
Facebook & Google claim they’re green yet promote & profit from climate change denial.— Center for Countering Digital Hate (@CCDHate) November 4, 2021
Our latest research shows a "Toxic Ten" of publishers fuel 69% of engagement with digital climate change disinformation.
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The study’s authors show that the climate denial propaganda machine is driven not just by Facebook, but Google via ad revenue too.
Eight of the Toxic Ten are funded by Google Ads, and together the ten publishers generated up to $5.3 million in ad revenue the last six months alone.
Overall, they cumulatively have a massive digital footprint with 186 million followers, and received nearly 1.1 billion visits over the past six months.
The study said that despite promises to attach information labels to posts linked to climate change, 92 percent of posts comprising content from the Toxic Ten carried no labels. None of the articles carried fact-checking labels.
Facebook announced in February that it would begin attaching information labels to posts about climate change, directing users to the platform’s new Climate Science Information Center, which launched last year. The feature had been rolled out in several countries by May.
But the social media platform's struggles with climate change misinformation resurfaced in last month’s internal leaks, which revealed that Facebook users still largely didn’t know the information centre existed.
Earlier this year, CCDH released a study analysing the top contributors to vaccination misinformation on social media, dubbed the Disinformation Dozen.
Now, it’s sights are set on Big Tech’s role in fanning the flames of climate denial.
“This research demonstrates once again that Big Tech is not following through on its very public commitments to climate action, and is instead allowing climate disinformation to pollute the discussion on climate change,” said Faye Holder, Program Manager at climate lobbying platform InfluenceMap.
“We are calling on Facebook and Google to stop promoting and funding climate denial, start labelling it as misinformation, and stop giving the advantages of their enormous platforms to lies and misinformation,” said CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed.
“As long as Facebook and Google carry on doing business with climate deniers, they cannot claim to be ‘green’. They owe it to us and the planet we all share, to deliver.”