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Google YouTube climate denial

Extinction Rebellion activists protesting outside Google's London offices on October 16, 2019 demand social media companies do more to fight climate change denial. (Photo: Ollie Millington/Getty Images)

Senate Dems Tell Facebook, Google CEOs to Fulfill Pledges to End Spread of Climate Disinformation

"Despite years of rhetoric to the contrary, your companies have not only allowed climate disinformation to flourish on your platforms, but have profited from it."

Jessica Corbett

A trio of Democratic U.S. senators on Tuesday sent a letter demanding that the CEOs of Facebook and Google follow through on their promises to stop the spread of climate disinformation on their platforms.

"Disinformation that downplays the crisis or rejects climate change threatens the potential for humankind to act collectively to pull itself back from the brink."

"The climate crisis poses an existential threat," states the letter from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Highlighting United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' August warning that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings are "a code red for humanity," the letter declares that "we need drastic action to prevent the most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis, including significant changes to global food, energy, and water infrastructure."

"Disinformation that downplays the crisis or rejects climate change threatens the potential for humankind to act collectively to pull itself back from the brink," the letter adds. "Your content moderation decisions can either galvanize an effort to save our plant or quash it."

Along with outlining recent pledges from Facebook and Google to address climate disinformation, Whitehouse, Warren, and Schatz emphasize that it "remains a persistent problem" on both platforms.

The senators cite a November report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which revealed that 10 "superpolluter" publishers not only "account for 69% of interactions on climate denial Facebook posts" but also "earned $3.6 million in advertising revenue from Google in the last six months."

"Despite years of rhetoric to the contrary, your companies have not only allowed climate disinformation to flourish on your platforms, but have profited from it," says the letter. "As the climate crisis worsens, it is essential that Facebook and Google make good on their commitments to combat climate disinformation on their platforms."

"We ask that Google remove the eight of 10 toxic sites on AdSense and that Facebook refuse to profit from publishers that are major spreaders of climate denial," the letter continues, referencing the publishers targeted in the November report. "Further, we ask that Facebook do what it said it would do six months ago and comprehensively label climate denial."

After asserting that the Big Tech firms must "take responsibility for their role" in the planetary emergency and "immediately pledge to stop profiting from the misery" that comes with global heating, the letter concludes by saying the senators would welcome further discussion about how both companies "can be constructive partners in the fight against climate disinformation and climate change."

The senators' call for action came less than a week after a new CCDH report detailed how Google "has broken its promise to stop running ads on climate denial content."

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