When one of the Facebook employees searched for “climate change” into search bar of Facebook, in August 2019, the auto-fill suggestions that showed up were “climate change debunked” and “climate change is a hoax.” The results prompted the employee to ask in a post on the company’s internal site: “Do our policies combatting the spread of misinformation on Facebook apply to climate denialism?”
In January 2021, after a year later, a Facebook employee noticed the same thing when he searched for “climate change” on the social network’s video-on-demand service, Facebook watch. The second result that popped up was a video titled “Climate Change Panic is not based on facts.” The video was posted almost nine days earlier and it already had 6.6 million views, according to another internal post.
According to documents reviewed by CNN Business, these examples were flagged by Facebook (FB) employees on the company’s internal site. These were among the hundreds of internal company documents provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel as evidence to support disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The redacted versions received by Congress were reviewed by a group of news organisations, including CNN.
The documents show how some employees of the social media company — which recently changed its name to Meta — have been raising concerns about climate change misinformation spreading on its platforms for years and urging the company to do more to combat it.
The social media company has been under public pressure for a long time to address climate change misinformation. “Climate misinformation… is a big issue,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted to lawmakers in March.
Meta announced new climate-related initiatives this week, coinciding with the start of the COP26 Climate Summit, where world leaders gathered to discuss efforts to avoid catastrophic climate disruptions. Meta was already under fire after the “Facebook Papers,” a leak of tens of thousands of pages of internal documents taken from the company by Haugen.