The Washington Post initially reported on two new Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawsuits filed by Whistleblower Aid, the charity that represents Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. The lawsuits accuse Facebook, now Meta, of deceiving investors about its efforts to combat climate change and COVID-19 falsehoods.
The first complaint, acquired by The Washington Post, states that there is freely available climate change disinformation on Facebook, contradicting Facebook’s assurances that it is combating climate denial. It also includes internal memos outlining workers’ own experiences on the site with climate-related misinformation.
According to The Washington Post, one employee claims that after searching for “climate change” on the Watch tab, a movie promoting “climate misinformation” came up as the second result. According to reports, the video in issue has 6.6 million views. Another employee is said to have asked the corporation to delete climate disinformation rather than simply labeling them as potentially inaccurate.
The lawsuit also highlights Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center, which was founded in 2020 as a repository for reliable climate change information. According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit cites internal data claiming “extremely low” user knowledge of the hub, implying it may not have reached its target audience. Meta tried to beef up its Climate Science Information Center last year by adding more quizzes, videos, and information. Climate change denial has become even more popular on the site, according to a research done months later.
The second lawsuit claims that Facebook’s promises to address COVID-19 falsehoods were not followed through on. The lawsuit includes an internal document showing a 20% spike in disinformation in April 2020, as well as a May 2020 record in which staff note the presence of hundreds of anti-quarantine groups, according to The Washington Post. President Joe Biden criticized Facebook and other social media platforms of “killing people” by spreading false information about COVID-19 and its immunizations in July.
In an emailed comment to The Verge, Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri stated, “We’ve directed more than 2 billion individuals to authoritative public health information and continue to eliminate misleading claims regarding vaccinations, conspiracy theories, and disinformation.” “Stopping the spread of disinformation does not have a one-size-fits-all answer, but we’re dedicated to developing new tools and rules to prevent it.”
Last year, Haugen disclosed a cache of internal Facebook information to the Wall Street Journal, nicknamed the Facebook Papers. She has subsequently testified before Congress on prospective changes to Section 230 of the statute, which protects websites from legal liability for illicit content posted by users.