Facebook Suspends Pages Of Local Climate Advocacy Groups With No Explanation

Aug 20, 2020

Update on August 21, 2020: Facebook has since apologized for taking down the Jacksonville chapter's page.  Original story below:

The Facebook pages of several local chapters of a national climate change advocacy nonprofit, including Jacksonville’s, have been suspended with no warning or explanation.

The volunteer-driven Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a non-partisan organization focused on climate change solutions. There are about 600 local chapters around the world.

Adam Rosenblatt, an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of North Florida, is the founder of the Jacksonville chapter.

Related: This Jacksonville Scientist Is On A Mission To Change Public Policy

The CCL Jacksonville Chapter’s Facebook page (@citizensclimatelobbyjax) has been active for about two years. Rosenblatt uses the page to post announcements about when events are being held in the city and to share news about what’s happening locally with climate change.

When new members join, Rosenblatt refers them to the Facebook page so they can see what the group is doing.

But in mid-July, the page was taken down suddenly with no warning or explanation.

Without that Facebook page, Rosenblatt said the Jacksonville CCL chapter has no web presence at all.

“And I just found out the other day that we are not the only chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby that this has happened to,” Rosenblatt said.

In an email to WJCT News, Lesley Beatty, the Marketing Director for the CCL, wrote that they were recently made aware of about ten chapters that have had their Facebook pages removed.

“We are still looking into the full scope of the problem as we are not automatically alerted when it happens - we only know about the ones where the groups have notified us,” she wrote. “The message we've seen is that the pages violate Facebook's community standards, but we are not sure what specifically is causing the pages to be flagged.”

Related: Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio Joins Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would be taking action against pages, groups, and Instagram accounts tied to anarchist groups, U.S. based militia organizations, and QAnon.

“We are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform,” the announcement reads.

The social media company said it has already removed 790 groups, 100 pages, and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon and imposed restrictions on more than 1,950 groups and 440 pages on Facebook and more than 10,000 accounts on Instagram. Additionally, more than 980 groups, 520 pages, and 160 ads that were associated with militia organizations, including some that identify as Antifa, have been removed from the site.

It’s not clear if this is why these CCL Facebook pages were taken down, but, “If they're lumping in climate change activists with conspiracy theory groups, then that's a pretty big flaw in Facebook’s algorithm,” Rosenblatt said.

Facebook has come under fire recently for its handling of climate misinformation.

Related: Advocates Virtually Meet With Jacksonville Rep. John Rutherford To Talk Climate Change

E&E News reported in June that a Facebook post by the CO2 Coalition, a White House-connected nonprofit that advocates for the burning of fossil fuels, was marked as false by a team of climate scientists, but that fact check was later overturned, thus creating a loophole for groups to attack the scientific consensus surrounding anthropogenic climate change.

Similarly, a joint investigation by the newsletters HEATED and Popular Information found that Facebook had quietly removed a fact-check of a viral article that was deemed “partly false” by seven climate scientists.

“If they're letting climate denialists speak their piece, even though it's blatantly false stuff that they're saying, but they're cracking down on climate change activism that's trying to support common sense climate change legislation... it just makes no sense whatsoever,” Rosenblatt said.

Update: Facebook has since apologized for taking down the Jacksonville chapter's page.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.