• February 4, 2023

Facebook spread false Texas winter storm power outage claims

Misleading Expectations shared by prominent conservatives that wind turbines caused massive power outages in the winter storm in Texas whipped over Facebook with no Fact-checking labelsMillions of views are being collected, according to a new report shared exclusively with USA TODAY.

Human rights group Avaaz says the top 10 top performing posts on wind turbine failure were made by public figures such as Fox News Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee received more than 15.8 million views on Facebook.

As of Tuesday, none of the posts had a fact-checking label, including those checked by the fact-checking partners on Facebook.

USA TODAY Fact check found the claim that frozen wind turbines were responsible for power outages in Texas lacked context. Some wind turbines froze up because they were not built to cope with the unusually cold temperatures, but the greatest loss of energy was due to the shutdown of thermal power plants.

Natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants were responsible for nearly twice as many blackouts as frozen wind turbines and solar panels, according to the Texas Electric Reliability Council, which operates the state’s power grid.

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“If a page, group or post violates our guidelines, we either remove them or flag them depending on the violation. We took the same approach with the examples given in the Avaaz report,” said a statement by Facebook Das Only Company that works with 80+ fact-checking organizations and uses AI to scale those checks based on the millions of duplicate posts on our platform. There is no playbook for a program like ours and we are constantly working to improve it. “

The false claims started with the picture of a helicopter de-icing wind turbine presented as the photo of the deadly Texas storm that left millions without food, water or heat, but was actually captured in Sweden in 2014, too research this week from the German Marshall Fund.

The claims spread quickly and quickly spread to YouTube, where they had 1.8 million views, and generated 1 million likes, comments, and shares on Facebook, according to the think tank. A tweet with the embedded image was retweeted 30,000 times on Twitter.

The Avaaz report found that in most cases, Facebook put a fact-checking label on the helicopter picture.

“Facebook has allowed irresponsible myths to reach millions without intervening against its own policies,” said Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz. “The company should know by now that disinformation spreads like wildfire during a crisis – and its negligence and algorithms are the fuel.”

The spate of misleading reports of the Texas power outages is part of a growing trend of disinformation campaigns that emerge when extreme weather conditions hit the country.

Social media companies are increasingly under pressure from environmental groups and democratic lawmakers to stop the spread of false reports and conspiracy theories about climate change. They warn that the Biden management efforts Increasing investments in renewable energy while reducing oil, gas and coal emissions could be undermined by falsehoods posted on social media.

“Disinformation content aimed at these efforts is unlikely to increase for months and years to come, particularly given the concerted effort to shift public opinion against these efforts,” the Avaaz report reads.

In September Facebook announced that it would counter misinformation about climate change with a Climate Science Information Center that provides users with scientifically based facts.

“We’re very aggressively removing content that could put people at risk, and we’re popping up on more content that gives them the help and support they need,” said Chris Cox, Facebook chief product officer told USA TODAY at the time. “Whenever there is a weather-related or disaster-like event, the teams pay much closer attention to what’s going on in those areas to understand what’s happening to the information ecosystem. And that’s only part of what we do to ensure that the platform provides the right information in times of crisis. “

Facebook’s announcement came just days after rescue workers in the Pacific Northwest had to tackle misinformation on Facebook and catastrophic forest fires.

Climate researchers said the “halves” did too little to contain false, misleading or controversial information such as the discredited theory that the government is using “chemtrails” to manipulate the weather.

“The consequences are that the public is far less informed about climate change than necessary,” Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told USA TODAY. “It is very useful for polluting interests that don’t want climate policy to move forward.”

Last week Facebook said The Climate Change Information Center added a new feature that provides facts that debunk common climate myths.

The Avaaz report says Facebook needs to do more to fix the record.

“When independent fact-checkers determine that content is incorrect or misleading, Facebook should provide a retrospective correction to anyone who has viewed, interacted with, or shared it. This can cut belief in false and misleading information by almost half, ”the group said.

Facebook should also narrow the reach of pages or groups that repeatedly exchange misinformation about climate change, Avaaz said.

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