EMails: Facebook Sics its “Independent Fact Checker” on Disfavored Speech

From Government Accountability & Oversight


Facebook, Google, WaPo All Seek to Cancel Climate Realism

Facebook alerts activist “fact-checkers” to “insanely viral” Stossel video

Taxpayer-financed institutions assisting

Readers may have noticed a recent flurry of headlines such as “Google, YouTube, and the Climate Inquisition” and “Washington Post Wants Facebook to Shut Down PJ Media and Others for ‘Climate Denial’”. You might even have received a notice from Facebook that you have been exposed to “climate disinformation” and warned to take appropriate precaution.

These are the latest iterations of the “fact checking” genre. Censorship over COVID claims seems to be merely an excuse to scratch a much bigger itch. Emails obtained under state open records laws show that this expansion is increasingly ominous and being underwritten at least in part by the taxpayer.

What’s going on is a campaign to drum climate-realism from the public square. After decades of doomsaying, the climate movement still cannot overcome popular skepticism of enacting an energy rationing agenda grounded in climate alarm. This is despite establishment media having historically dismissed one side in the “climate” science and policy debates while engaging in full-throated advocacy on behalf of another.

This censorship began to escalate relevantly recently. In 2018, former Democratic Senate staffer and current “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd said he would not give any air time to “climate deniers.” The Los Angeles Times banned letters to the editor from those skeptical of a climate emergency. BBC joined in. That, too, wasn’t enough. So, recently, Google announced “it will now prevent ads and monetization supporting content that questions climate change alarmism. This includes YouTube.”

Late last year, Facebook entered into agreement with an “independent fact-checker”, called “Climate Feedback”. “Nick Clegg, the social media giant’s vice president for global affairs and communications, noted that Facebook “reduces distribution of posts that its third-party fact-checkers say are false.”

“Who conducts the sweeps? Apparently Facebook. One Climate Feedback email asking participants for comment, for example, opens with “Facebook reached out to Climate Feedback to alert us about a video by John Stossel that is going insanely viral right now (with 24 million views already just 5 hours after being published).””

Top targets for cancelation are the “Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg, former Obama Department of Energy Chief Scientist and CalTech Provost Steve Koonin, and eco-realist Michael Shellenberger. John Stossel and PragerU also have prompted mobilization of the censors, leading Stossel to sue, claiming the effort to silence went too far, and extended into defamation.

Climate Feedback originated, naturally, at a university (the University of California at Davis). A quick scan of its “fact checks” revealed numerous public employees using their taxpayer-financed institutions in this way, on behalf of an ideologically activist movement, one now dedicated to clearing the field of wrong-think to at long last enable political adoption of an agenda that elected representatives. Governmental transparency group Energy Policy Advocates requested correspondence to shed light on this use of public institutions.

Productions from several universities provide insight on the process, revealing a bit about how these things work, and the mindset involved.

“We have reported our findings to Facebook. Any user that interacted with the article will be notified.”

“Misinformation has been reported to Facebook.”

CF’s recruiter of posts approached allies stating, “I am a science editor at Climate Feedback, a global coalition of scientists working to improve the accuracy of climate media coverage by providing experts’ feedback to readers, journalists and tech platforms.” Her email tagline is “We’re working with Facebook to identify and counter misinformation – evaluations by scientists are essential to this process. When content is identified as false or misleading, your contribution will provide feedback to all users who have interacted with it. You can see an example of inaccurate content flagged by us here.

The results:

These productions reflect a combination of basic speech policing — attend to what you see while walking the beat — even down to broken windows enforcement: don’t even let Climate 101 statements be uttered without a response:

…complement it with regular raids of known haunts for usual suspects and any other newcomers (these clearly include PragerU and WSJ), and you’ve got a privatized Climate Speech Police.

Who conducts the sweeps? Apparently Facebook. One email asking CF participants for comment, for example, opens with “Facebook reached out to Climate Feedback to alert us about a video by John Stossel that is going insanely viral right now (with 24 million views already just 5 hours after being published).”

While certainly of interest to Stossel and his lawyers as they explore how the alleged defamation came about, this also raises Section 230 issues for Facebook which arguably is involved in developing, not merely moderating, the content.

Humorously, a recent UCLA production revealed a new sensitivity among certain CF participants: the worry about the increasingly doomsday tenor of articles discouraging interest in taking “climate action”. The correspondence suggested, rather hilariously, that skeptics are behind this (even as the author cited to well-known alarmists like Eric Holthaus as exemplar of the offenders).

“the rumblings I’ve been hearing about an organized disinformation campaign to attack climate science/action from the opposite site–spreading hopelessness and doom-driven apathy instead of climate denial or trivialization”.

Sounds just like the (possibly apocryphal) “weepers” who, before Paris fell, would ride the Metro trains visibly despairing, to discourage the populace. Really, there’s nothing skeptics can’t do. Such omnipotent voices must be silenced.

It isn’t all amusing. As Tim Black wrote recently in his piece for Spiked, “How the climate lobby crushed debate,” “Anyone who dissents from stringent climate policies will be branded an enemy of The Science.” And chased from the public square.

This is not merely troubling but dangerous. It is even reckless, given how we already see courts letting “climate” vandals walk from accountability by claiming the ‘necessity’ defense. “Oh, that was just a coal train…” “That was just a facility…” And, after all, well, climate change.

Such enabling of industrial sabotage will only breed more, of course, and makes future harm to individuals seem all but certain: alarmist claims are not limited to climate is taking property, and so taking property is acceptable as necessary. The claims are quite expressly that catastrophic man-made climate change is killing tens of thousands! With millions more if bad people aren’t stopped! Possibly force-feeding a party line isn’t the best idea?

Media outlets should allow more not less of what is an actual and quite fierce debate over climate instead of the increasingly orchestrated diet of ‘we all agree it’s catastrophic, our [psst: THEIR!] fault, and getting worse‘.

And yet, a new era of censorship is clearly underway, with the objective of silencing political opposition and funded in part by the same taxpayers being targeted.

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Gordon A. Dressler
December 10, 2021 10:08 am

Just because one willingly chooses to bury his/her head in the sand does not mean to say that their big, fat, ignorant arse is not revealed for all the world to see

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 13, 2021 12:35 pm

*Argggh!!!* My eyes! My eyes! That’s an image that, once seen, can’t be unseen, even if it occurred only in my mind’s eye!

December 10, 2021 10:16 am

Must we wear a pause chart badge on our clothing when out in public?

M Courtney
December 10, 2021 10:17 am

Facebook is a private publisher. It can broadcast what it likes.
But it must also be regulated in the same way as any other publisher.

Reply to  M Courtney
December 10, 2021 11:21 am

It sure seems like FB is crying “fire” in the theater more often than we realize

Reply to  M Courtney
December 10, 2021 12:23 pm

Interesting how you assume that it is the proper role of government to regulate what publishers do.
How are you any different from the climate alarmists who want to use government regulation to shut down those they disagree with?
Just remove the special protections that these entities have been given, as well as the support that they get from other government agencies.

Reply to  MarkW
December 10, 2021 2:20 pm

If the special protections (Section 230) are removed, then those social media sites would be regulated just like any other publisher. So you do assume that “… it is the proper role of government to regulate what publishers do”

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
December 10, 2021 4:45 pm

If section 230 protections were removed how long do you think it would be before this site was sued out of existence for the multiple defamatory comments posted below almost every article?

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 10, 2021 8:24 pm

Well the people who feel they’ve been defamed can take it court like Michael Mann has done with Dr Tim Ball and Mark Steyn.

But then when the cases get to a judge, the plaintiffs (like Mann) are required to show their work and show where the alleged defamers were wrong in their comments.

And strangely, like Mann, the cases come to a grinding halt.
No reliable work to table.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
December 11, 2021 11:01 am

And would they then sue the Post Office into oblivion?
Get real.

Reply to  M Courtney
December 10, 2021 1:01 pm

“But it must also be regulated in the same way as any other publisher.”

You mean like Pravda?

William Astley
Reply to  M Courtney
December 10, 2021 2:28 pm

I totally agree. Facebook has a power now that is unregulated. Facebook the company has become a political machine that will do stuff to change elections, to hide covid anti virals like Ivermectin, to push the CAGW, and to push propaganda for political reasons.

Censorship allows evil things to happen and not get reported. Like cheating in elections. Like making up ‘science’ and pretending that fake solutions could work. Like ignoring the fact that China is delaying taking country destroy green plans which will make electricity super expensive and still never get zero CO2 emissions.

The ‘green’ solution to CAGW does not work for basic engineering reasons.

Reply to  William Astley
December 12, 2021 8:43 am

Yes, it is beyond dangerous; we could lose everything millions died to give this generation.

Reply to  M Courtney
December 13, 2021 12:46 pm

Now you’re raising the Section 230 specter. I have read Section 230. If courts had applied exactly what was written in the complete section, rather than using just half a sentence taken out of context, there would be no need of further legislation. Based on what I read, a “platform” makes no modifications to any posts, and deletes only those that are clearly illegal (apparently advocating violence is not illegal, it’s allowed to stand frequently, provided the one posting it has not been branded a “conservative”). The very first instance of applying opinion to someone else’s posting makes them a “publisher” and at that point they should be subject to libel suits for any content regardless who originally typed it in. But it appears courts (more than one?) have abandoned the plain language, and now Section 230 is seen as a blanket protection from ALL liability that exists in no other medium on earth and was never intended by the Section’s framers. To get anything different out of the courts will require, at the very least, a modification by Congress (would just a resolution, clarifying the original intent, do any good? I think not, I think the Section will have to be modified) to more clearly and definitely state what’s good for the country and the internet.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
December 13, 2021 1:05 pm

That’s the problem I’ve been seeing all this time: why isn’t anyone trying to go after the Section 230 protections given the blatant violations?

Or maybe even TOS? Isn’t that considered a contract?

Of course, nobody’s been going after these platforms at all until quite recently.

Ed Reid
December 10, 2021 10:17 am

Welcome to Orwell”s “Ministry of Truth”, where “our truth is the only truth”.

The “factcheckers” are not checking “facts”, but merely conformance with the CAGW narrative.

Kevin McNeill
Reply to  Ed Reid
December 10, 2021 12:16 pm

And FB admitted as much in court submissions in the Stossel case.

Reply to  Ed Reid
December 12, 2021 9:14 am

I had a FB comment that used the phrase “break-in” referring to a steam locomotive maintenance, and they banned my comment! That’s some massive level of paranoia…

December 10, 2021 10:19 am

Who knew that the interglacial period would carry such political and social stigma baggage.

December 10, 2021 11:04 am

Why are all the email addresses of Climate Feedback personnel hosted on Columbian servers?

Do they really need to be that close to cocaine exporters?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Doonman
December 10, 2021 12:03 pm

Columbia exports cocaine? Those guys in Colombia are going to be very annoyed about the competition!

December 10, 2021 12:16 pm

Being a public company isn’t Facebook governed by certain rules involving free speech?

Pariah Dog
December 10, 2021 1:19 pm

I think you mis-spelled “fact choker”. That is, an individual or organisation that seeks to limit or restrict the dissemination of factual information.

Brent Qually
December 10, 2021 1:32 pm

Took a look on the climate feedback website at the scientists behind the censors … the list includes such paragons of objectivity as Peter Gleick and Michael Mann.

Joseph Zorzin
December 10, 2021 1:52 pm

“So, recently, Google announced “it will now prevent ads and monetization supporting content that questions climate change alarmism. This includes YouTube.””

Tony Heller was locked out of his own YouTube channel for a week as a warning.

Jeff corbin
December 10, 2021 2:01 pm

For whatever valued narrative that has been deemed to be imperative to sustain, there are Fact Checks are an algorithmic propaganda tool. The lying is the implication that what follows is always indeed a fact. Algorithmic screening is constant. The response is algorithmic fact checks that function as censorship as a form of propaganda.

Peta of Newark
December 10, 2021 2:48 pm

Where does fantasy end and where does reality begin?

If you, me or anyone spends considerable amounts of time in a fantasy world, would that crossover line become displaced?
What if and at the same time, let’s say, your brain and mind were not working optimally?
Why do people take ‘drugs’?

Why did I put drugs in quote marks?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 13, 2021 12:50 pm

Reality is for those people who can’t handle drugs.

Juan Slayton
December 10, 2021 9:06 pm

…a video by John Stossel that is going insanely viral right now (with 24 million views already just 5 hours after being published).

Has somebody got a link to this video? I want to see it.

Reply to  Juan Slayton
December 11, 2021 10:45 am

Maybe this one?
UTube: Are We Doomed?
Nov 19, 2019

Reply to  yirgach
December 11, 2021 10:51 am

Or this one?
UTube: Green New Deal: Fact versus Fiction Apr 22, 2019

Andy Espersen
December 10, 2021 9:37 pm

Never mind all these sick efforts from increasingly desperate climate activists. The real world with its real political events continues – and the whole house of cards built from panic from all us rich western nations for over 20 years will collapse over the next, say, 5 years. The collapse actually began just this week.

It began with a terse, dry statement from the office of the Japanese Prime Minister : “No compromise is acceptable to ensure energy security, and it is the obligation of a nation to continue securing necessary resources”. Japan is the 3rd largest economy on the globe.

Fresh from returning from COP26 in Glasgow Japan has indicated that she, for one, will not bother joining festivities at COP27 next year!

Whatever Facebook does or does not do will not matter in the big scheme of things.

Reply to  Andy Espersen
December 13, 2021 12:52 pm

Oh, I think Japan will send representatives… but their role may be more to gum up the works and ensure nothing substantive passes, rather than as an effort to achieve any agreements.

December 11, 2021 7:07 am

So, the spewing of leftarded opinions is still being called “fact checking”. Got it.

December 12, 2021 8:53 am

Prime example: The recent battle over carbon taxes in Canada was won by the feds not because of the science or the precepts of the constitution but because the majority of the Supreme court judges believe CC / GW presents a danger to the planet. Even said so in their decision. The minority presented arguments of law and precedent.

December 12, 2021 12:07 pm

I’m curious how much the Streisand Effect is having on these videos. I don’t do social media so I have nothing to gauge by.

December 13, 2021 1:16 pm

It’s a religion. Blasphemy will not be tolerated.

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