Facebook’s newest ‘fact checkers’ are Koch-funded climate deniers

The fatal flaw in Zuckerberg’s effort to deal with fake news.

Cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
Cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg keeps dashing any hope that the world’s largest social media platform might be a positive force in the fight against catastrophic climate change.

In its latest disastrous move to fight the online epidemic of fake news, Facebook’s fact-checking effort announced last week that it was teaming up with — an arm of the conservative, anti-science media site The Daily Caller.

The Daily Caller, which has published misinformation about climate science for years, was co-founded by the science-denying Fox News host Tucker Carlson and is backed by major conservative donors, including Charles and David Koch, the billionaire fossil fuel barons who are the single biggest funders of climate science misinformation.

“It is appalling that Facebook has teamed up with a Koch-funded organization that promotes climate change denial,” leading climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress. Mann, whose own work has been misrepresented by The Daily Caller, added, “Facebook must disassociate itself from this organization.”

Following the 2016 election — and the growing realization that Russians, white supremacists, and many others have been using the site to promote hate speech, fake news, and misinformation — Facebook began partnering with independent fact checkers.

But this effort has been undermined by a series of missteps by Facebook and Zuckerberg.

In the fall of 2017, Facebook named the climate science-denying Weekly Standard an official fact-checking partner, against the advice of an independent report.


In May 2018, Zuckerberg brought in a right-wing think tank that spreads climate disinformation to figure out whether Facebook displays a liberal bias. Facebook even hired a PR firm with Republican ties to attack the company’s critics and competitors. It went on to smear philanthropist George Soros, who had been critical of Facebook, with anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles.

Last July, Zuckerberg made news when he explained that Facebook wouldn’t explicitly ban even something as extreme as Holocaust denial. Then, in clarifying his remarks, he said that while he won’t block fake news from appearing on his site, his fact checkers would stop it from spreading widely.

In December, the Weekly Standard ceased publication, raising the prospect that Facebook might correct its mistake in hiring climate science deniers as fact checkers.

But then Facebook announced last week that it was partnering with the fact-checking arm of The Daily Caller, which was launched in 2010 with $3 million from GOP donor and climate science denier Foster Friess. Since then, many of The Daily Caller’s stories have been written by its News Foundation, which has received funding from both the Charles Koch Institute and the Koch Family Foundations.


It is beyond outrageous that in 2019 — when the science of human-caused climate change has been overwhelmingly verified and every other nation but ours is desperately working to avert catastrophic impacts — the world’s largest social media site is still partnering with climate science deniers.

Indeed, given how many outstanding nonpartisan organizations could serve as Facebook fact checkers, environmental sociologist Robert Brulle asked, “Why they are partnering with an organization that is part of the right wing echo chamber?”

In an email to ThinkProgress, Brulle, who has authored numerous studies on climate communications and lobbying, added, “This is one of the sites that needs to be fact checked, not used as a reliable source. Facebook should cancel this contract.”