Facebook Suspends Environmental Groups Despite Vow to Fight Climate Misinformation

Social media giant blames mistake in system for restrictions on groups including Greenpeace USA, Rainforest Action Network.

Facebook has suspended the accounts of several environmental organizations less than a week after launching an initiative it said would counter a tide of misinformation over climate science on the platform.

photo of climate march
Activists say hundreds of individual accounts linked to Indigenous, climate, and social groups were suspended over the weekend in addition to those of large environmental groups. Photo by of Dan Alcalde.

Groups such as Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote, and Rainforest Action Network were among those blocked from posting or sending messages on Facebook over the weekend. Activists say hundreds of other individual accounts linked to Indigenous, climate, and social justice groups were also suspended for an alleged “intellectual property rights violation.”

The suspended people and groups were all involved in a Facebook event from May last year that targeted KKR & Co, a US investment firm that is backing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a 670km-long gas development being built in northern British Columbia, Canada.

The suspensions, the day before another online action aimed at KKR & Co, has enraged activists who oppose the pipeline for its climate impact and for cutting through the land of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, a First Nations people.

“Videos of extreme violence, alt-right views, and calls for violence by militias in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are allowed to persist on Facebook,” said Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en community member. “Yet we are banned and receive threats for permanent removal, for posting an online petition.”

Many of the accounts have now been restored, but a handful are still blocked, with no fuller explanation coming from Facebook.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our systems mistakenly removed these accounts and content. They have since been restored and we’ve lifted any limits imposed on identified profiles.”

The suspensions came just a few days after the social media giant said it was launching a “climate science information center” to counter widely shared but misleading posts that reject the established science of the climate crisis.

“We’re committed to tackling climate misinformation,” Facebook said in a statement that also outlined its own efforts to reduce its own net greenhouse gas emissions to zero this year. The information center will include posts from trusted scientific sources, rated by fact-checkers.

“As with all types of claims debunked by our fact-checkers, we reduce the distribution of these posts in News Feed and apply a warning label on top of these posts both on Facebook and Instagram so people understand that the content has been rated false,” the company said.

But climate organizations have questioned whether Facebook is doing enough to cut down on untruths about the climate crisis that are spread across the site. In 2018, for example, a video that denied that human activity was driving the climate crisis was shared on Facebook and viewed 5 million times.

Articles and videos about climate change can be deemed opinion, meaning under Facebook guidelines they can’t be blocked by its factcheckers. This loophole meant that that this month the CO2 Coalition, a group that argues more carbon dioxide is good for the planet, managed to overturn a factcheck on an article that attacked the accuracy of climate models. A factcheck rated the piece as “false” but it was published by Facebook when labelled as opinion.

“Actions speak louder than words and once again Facebook has taken actions that are in stark contrast to public statements from the company,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner at Greenpeace USA.

“The recent bans targeting people fighting to save their communities from climate change and the continued exploitation of fossil fuel companies show us that when push comes to shove, Facebook will side with polluters at the cost of their users’ trying to organize.”

Facebook was contacted for comment.

You Make Our Work Possible

You Make Our Work Possible

We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

Donate
Get the Journal in your inbox.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

The Latest

Why is Biden Considering this Man to Help Fight the Climate Crisis?

Ernest Moniz’s link to fossil fuels ‘is his entire professional career for the last couple decades, which is deeply concerning.’

Emily Holden The Guardian

The Lessons We Might Learn from Mosses

In a year of quarantine and remote learning, my children and I have found solace in the mossy world of our backyard forest.

Rachel Sturges

The Last Remaining Flocks of Gallos de León are Dwindling

For centuries, chicken breeders in a rural corner of Spain have produced feathers prized by fly fishermen. But economic hardships and environmental degradation threaten to end a way of life.

Bridget Ryder

Climate Activists Ramp Up Pressure on Biden with Protest Outside Democratic Headquarters

Groups to camp in Washington DC in protest of Biden’s hires of key staff with connections to the oil and gas industry.

Emily Holden The Guardian

Ferment. Foment: Food, Loss, and Belonging in a Foreign Land

Reclaiming one’s culinary heritage is a form of both coping and resistance. Collectively, such efforts are part of the larger struggles for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Rubeena Mahato

Are Wildlife Trade Bans Backfiring?

Trafficking in wild animal and plant products is driving species to extinction, but some researchers think restrictions only spur demand and make things worse.

Natasha Gilbert Knowable Magazine