The Climate Change Denial Spread on Facebook

Facebook helps spread climate change denial. Center for Countering Digital Hate published a report identifying the top 10 digital publishers whose articles account for up to 69 percent of Facebook interactions with climate change denial articles. The ten publishers analyzed have 186 million followers on mainstream social media platforms. 

CCDH researchers analyzed 184 articles featuring climate change denial published by the ten publishers. The articles sampled garnered over one million likes, comments, or shares on Facebook. Researchers also analyzed the top public Facebook posts for each article. They found that 50.5 percent (92 percent) of the most popular posts associated with the articles studied did not contain an information label. All articles analyzed were published since May 19, 2021, when Facebook announced it would expand the labels feature.

“By failing to do even the bare minimum to address the spread of climate denial information, Meta is exacerbating the climate crisis,” said Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said in a statement.

“Climate change denial—designed to fracture our resolve and impede meaningful action to mitigate climate change—flows unabated on Facebook and Instagram.

Meta’s Ideals, Facebook Reality, and Google AdSense Money

There is a disconnect between Facebook’s ideals and what they allow on their platform. While Meta, the company that owns Facebook, claims that climate change is an important issue to the company, they allow climate change deniers to post misinformation on their platform. 

“Climate change is one of the most urgent issues impacting our world today and we are committed to help tackle this global challenge,” proclaims Meta, the company that owns Facebook.

A list of a handful of unlabeled posts referencing the articles analyzed shows just how vast the disconnect is between Meta’s ideals and what they allow on Facebook:

The ten publishers earned an aggregate $3.6 million in advertising revenue from Google’s AdSense platform in the last six months. The AdSense funds publishers receive come from companies such as Chevrolet, Capital One, and DHL International, whose ads have run on the publisher’s sites. Eight of the ten publishers paid Facebook to advertise their content to its users, which helps drive traffic to the publishers’ articles. 

The Fall of Russian State-Owned Media

Two Russian state companies, RT and Sputnik, are among the Toxic Ten publishers. CCDH characterized RT, short for Russia Today, as the “foreign disinformation arm of the Russian state.” Founded in 2005, the Russian government finances RT and the media company receives additional revenue from advertising and sponsored content. Sputnik, founded in 2014 by the Russian media group Rossiya Segodnya, is also funded by the Russian government. 

RT and Sputnik are notorious for disinformation. A 2020 report from the Oxford Internet Institute described RT as “one of the most important organizations in the global political economy of disinformation.” Sputnik spread a fake story regarding asylum seekers in Germany, a 2016 NATO report alleged. 

The reign of Russian state-owned media, including RT and Sputnik, spreading disinformation about climate change or any other subject is over. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries in Europe and North America banned RT. YouTube blocked global access to the channels associated with Russian government-funded media. Other companies cut ties with Russian media, including Facebook. 

The cruelty of the Russian invasion opened up governments and companies to the reality of propaganda. That it took so long for Facebook to cut ties with RT and Sputnik speaks volumes about what matters to Meta. Money speaks louder than the company’s ideals. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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