Interview of the Week: Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power 2020

We asked Lori about Climate Power 2020’s work to stop the spread of climate misinformation on Facebook.

ODP: Facebook promised it would fact check misinformation and even created an Oversight Board and fact-checking operation to make sure it was not spreading lies. But disinformation about climate change is still getting posted on Facebook. What happened?

LL: The short answer: nothing. In fact, Facebook recently made it even easier to spread disinformation about climate by overruling their approved fact-checkers who are Ph.D. scientists. Facebook staff decided climate denial is a matter of opinion, creating a loophole, so climate deniers are able to spread their lies without consequence and even have Facebook promote it.

It makes no sense climate denial is allowed to run rampant on Facebook and climate scientists like Dr. Katharine Hayhoe are penalized by the site for sharing her research.

As we said in our letter to Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Facebook’s Oversight Board, climate science is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact. Until Facebook takes a stand, climate deniers will continue to exploit the platform to sow discord and put our nation’s health and security at dire risk.

ODP:  An organization called the CO2 Coalition seems to be pushing Facebook to allow the lies about climate change to continue to appear in Facebook posts. Who are they and what is their position on climate change?

LL: Facebook created the loophole at the request of the CO2 Coalition, an organization with deep financial ties to the Koch brothers and a long record of promoting debunked claims about climate change (and COVID-19!). There’s a reason climate deniers, like the CO2 Coalition, continue to peddle their lies and it all goes back to the oil and gas CEOs and the profits they’re protecting.

How dangerous is the CO2 Coalition’s position on climate? They argue burning more fossil fuels, creating higher levels of carbon dioxide, would be “of great benefit” to humanity. It’s a ridiculous argument only used by the most extreme climate deniers.. And, not surprisingly, it’s a huge boon for oil and gas.

ODP:  Climate Power 2020 and other environmental organizations got a meeting with Facebook executives this week. What was their reaction? What are they going to do about the misleading climate posts?

LL: What Facebook has continued to show us is that they are not doing anything to stop the rampant spread of dangerous misinformation and hate on their platform that is putting us at risk.

Facebook’s Oversight Board has said that they won’t start operations until “late Fall”. It’s unconscionable for Mark Zuckerberg and the Oversight Board to think they can wait another day to take action — let alone until, what we assume will be, after the election. If Facebook refuses to act, as our letter stated, we can only assume this Board is another PR stunt from Zuckerberg. What must Facebook employees think?

We’re going to keep pushing Facebook to take responsibility and immediately hold their first meeting on this issue.

ODP:  What can the public do to pressure Facebook and its Oversight Board to address this issue?

LL: Facebook has a huge problem, which one way or another, they will have no choice but to address. From empowering white nationalists to handling falsehoods from anti-vaccination groups, QAnon, the Trump campaign, and climate deniers — Facebook’s response is the same. First, they deny a problem exists, then assert that it’s being addressed. Only when enough external pressure builds will the company consider any kind of enforcement action — but not always.

We need everyone’s help to make sure Facebook and their Oversight Board take their roles seriously and close the climate denial loophole. We’re asking people to take action by co-signing our letter to the Oversight Board demanding they immediately meet to stop the spread of misinformation and the overturning of decisions made by scientists and fact-checkers. Or you can text FACEBOOK to 97779 to add your name.

Thanks so much, Lori!   Friends of the Planet, you can help by signing the letter or texting your support!

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