Cambridge psychologist helps Facebook fight climate change misinformation


22-02-2021
mobile phone and tackling misinformation

Social media giant turns to behaviour and communication expert to help it tackle the dangerous anti-science myths that circulate online.  

Facebook has sought the help of experts on anti-environment propaganda, including a Cambridge psychologist, to improve their Climate Science Information Centre and help more of the platform’s almost three billion monthly users find the latest accurate climate science data.  

Dr Sander van der Linden is one of three experts on behaviour and communication to have been drafted in by the social media giant to advise on how best to debunk the toxic myths about global heating that spread like wildfire on digital platforms such as Facebook.

Along with academics from Yale and George Mason universities, Van der Linden has helped Facebook to expand their digital Centre, which connects its users with vetted, proven research from the world’s leading climate change organisations, including the UN Environment programme.

Van der Linden and colleagues worked with teams at Facebook to design the most effective types of communication for the platform’s misinformation debunking initiative, including a section that challenges damaging climate change myths, such as the belief that global warming is just part of a natural cycle of temperature fluctuation, and that more atmospheric carbon dioxide greens the planet.      

Already available in the US and parts of Europe, today also marks Facebook’s expansion of their Climate Science Information Centre’s availability to other major nations including Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Spain.  

“Climate change is an existential threat, which makes misinformation about climate change an existential threat,” said Van der Linden, Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab at the University’s Department of Psychology.

“The spread of damaging falsehoods endangers the level of international cooperation required to prevent catastrophic global warming. Facebook is in a unique position to counter the circulation of online misinformation, and the new climate ‘mythbusting’ section is an important step toward debunking dangerous falsehoods."

“We hope this collaboration will help people the world over to better discern fact from fiction,” Van der Linden said.

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)