To Climate Change Extremists, Free Speech on Facebook Is Dangerous
As America’s political middle ground gives way to sharp left-right divisions and even violence, there are winners and losers in the war on ideas. What in the recent past would have been considered up for debate, now shifts firmly into the “settled science” category by those who are intolerant of differing viewpoints.
In 2020, “winners” consist of those who control social media networks, of which a mere handful now have a stranglehold on the national conversation. Because these firms are primarily located in the ultra-liberal San Francisco Bay Area, their hiring pool has long consisted primarily of left-leaning employees.
With the inevitable temptation to use this incredible power to influence public sentiment and elections, leftists have had the inside advantage, leaving conservatives, moderates and others shut out of the debate almost entirely.
Twitter, for example, is facing a public relations nightmare over recent revelations that 1100 insiders and contractors had access to the disturbingly-named “God Mode,” which allows almost total control over user accounts and content. As there was no internal oversight over such a powerful access level, this led to a major security breach affecting celebrities and political leaders.
No stranger to accusations of unfair control over user speech is Facebook, a platform originally designed to bring people together. It has recently come under fire for suppressing debate over so-called “climate change”. The dispute is over the ability of one group to control another's free expression via the Menlo Park-based company’s Orwellian Oversight Board and moderation team.
Reeling from the 2016 election’s outcome and aftermath, Facebook began site reforms to regulate user content. That opened a Pandora's box of criticism and scrutiny over censorship and the outright de-platforming of voices. A central target of that debate has become the suppression of voices that challenge left-leaning scientists’ prevailing opinions.
When it comes to climate change, Facebook has cared little for honest discussion and debate, instead tipping the scales in favor of alarmists. It has already banned site users from seeing and sharing factual content created by credentialed climate scientists.
Even worse, in a recent open letter to former Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who now co-chairs the company’s Oversight Board, leftist zealots want Facebook to go a step further. They claim that “the integrity of the Oversight Board” is at risk unless they begin this troubled process again for opinion pieces that challenge the “progressive” climate change orthodoxy.
“When you were Prime Minister, you knew for certain that climate change was fact, not opinion, and needs to be treated as such,” wrote its signers, which included the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Center for American Progress. “In your current role as an overseer of Facebook’s dangerous misinformation practice, our plea is grave: please, Ms. Thorning-Schmidt, take action now.”
Meanwhile, many of these same groups have endorsed legislators like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who proclaims that “the world is going to end in 12 years, if we don’t address climate change.” Despite sophomoric and outlandish assertions, they seemingly want to force a new Facebook policy that will prevent the public from ever countering radical viewpoints.
To say that energy science is settled law is not only untrue, it’s downright dangerous. On June 29th, for example, Biomass supplier Enviva revealed that a sizable portion of their product wasn't carbon neutral as previously believed. This finding runs counter to the European Union’s longstanding belief that biomass is the prime option for reducing carbon emissions. Now, regulators must reassess their polices for a source that accounts for over 60 percent of their clean energy needs. But we would have never learned that if public scepticism were banned.
Without the protection of free thought and discussion, scientific work cannot proceed. We need to share ideas, opinions, and perspectives to allow for the uncovering of truth, not suppress it.
Perhaps the Sierra Club doesn’t want a debate because other groups within their school of thought could challenge them. Take, for example, the process of making EVs, which some have found can actually be highly destructive to the environment. Sierra Club has preached EVs for years and finds dissenting arguments "dangerous." When the debate is shut down, the public fails to hear about the horrendous misuse of child labor at cobalt mines in the Congo and other disturbing details.
As Mark Zuckerberg put it, “Powerful people are always going to have a voice. I feel like someone needs to stand up for giving everyone a voice.” Facebook’s platform is unique in its ability to allow for the sharing of ideas worldwide. By attempting to stifle our ability to speak freely, the signers of this letter are working to shut it down.
Zuckerberg and Facebook have been right to reject calls for suppression to date. As science and society will be better as a result, they should hold firm under pressure from these narrowminded special interest groups.
Brian Maloney is the co-founder of the Media Equality Project.