Facebook has found itself in hot water after wading into the debate over whether offshore wind farms are responsible for a rise in whale deaths on the East Coast.
Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger has accused the internet giant of “censoring accurate information” after it posted a content warning on a story about 300 whales stranded since 2017.
Officials admit there has been an ‘unusual mortality event’ on the east coast over the past six years with reported strandings from New York to North Carolina, but insisted the series new wind farms was not responsible.
The controversy erupted days after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was threatened with contempt of Congress amid claims the social media company deleted posts under Biden’s White House direction.
“Facebook is censoring specific information about the relationship between industrial wind power development and increased whale mortality off the East Coast,” Shellenberger said.
Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg has been accused of deleting Facebook posts on orders from the White House
Conservationist Michael Shellenberger triggered fact checkers on Facebook when he linked the latest east coast whale death to wind farms
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracks the deaths of humpback whales and right whales. These are some of the places they have washed up since December, with some having seen multiple strandings
“Why is Facebook censoring accurate information and spreading misinformation?”
Construction is underway on two new wind farms off Rhode Island and Massachusetts after the White House pledged to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes.
Two are already operating off Rhode Island and Virginia Beach despite fury from conservationists and commercial fishing operators, and Virginia’s $10 billion development is expected to feature more than 175 wind turbines by 2026.
In January, environmental group Clean Ocean Action called on President Joe Biden to intervene and halt wind farm projects, saying there was evidence it was linked to whale deaths.
“We’ve gone too far, too fast,” said Clean Ocean Action executive director Cindy Zipf.
“Over 2.2 million acres are allocated for offshore wind and 10,000 miles of cables.
“This alarming number of fatalities is unprecedented in the past half century, the only single factor from previous years being the excessive scope, scale and scale of offshore wind power activity in the region.”
The last dead whale washed up on Takanassee Beach in New Jersey on Saturday, and this year is on track to be the worst on record for East Coast fatal strandings.
Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger claims Facebook boss is helping government officials twist truth about whale deaths
More than 175 wind turbines are planned for development off Virginia by 2026.
One of the dead humpback whales is removed from New York’s Lido beach after being washed up in January
Shellenberger called the issue “the world’s biggest environmental scandal” and this week posted a series of angry messages to his thousands of Facebook followers.
“The government says it’s not because of the wind industry’s high decibel pile driving and boat traffic in previously crystal clear waters,” he wrote.
‘They lie. And now we have proof.
It prompted Facebook watchdogs to slap a warning, saying the post was “missing context and could mislead people”.
It also links to a post from Facebook partner Factcheck.org insisting there is no reason to believe wind farms are to blame.
“Several factors, experts and officials said, could increase the risk of these hazards,” the reviewers wrote.
“On the one hand, climate change is warming the oceans and altering the distribution of prey on which marine species depend.
“As a result, whales are changing their migration routes and moving out of protected areas and moving closer to shore, where they are more vulnerable to ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.”
He pointed to autopsies performed by the official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggesting that 40% of dead humpback whales were killed by hitting boats or becoming entangled in ropes.
But they admit: “The causes of the remaining 60% have been inconclusive, in part, officials say, because the carcasses decompose rapidly, making it difficult to determine a cause of death.”
Facebook moves automatically reduces the visibility of posts flagged by its fact-checking partners, including AFP, reducing the visibility of false or misleading content.
But earlier this month, its parent company Meta changed its settings allowing users to partially disable the fact-checking they see.
“We’re giving Facebook users even more power to control the algorithm that ranks posts in their feed,” a Meta spokesperson told AFP.
Right whales are among the species that have washed up dead on east coast beaches
Some environmental groups have blamed the deaths on offshore wind turbines. A whale is pictured stranded on Seaside Park in New Jersey in March 2023
We do this in response to users who tell us they want greater ability to decide what they see on our apps.’
“For the past 20 years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called his social media company “the digital equivalent of a public square,” committed to factual accuracy and protecting privacy. natural environment,” Shellenberger said.
“Facebook knows that its ‘fact checks’ are only their ‘opinion’.
“Thus, labeling FactCheck.org, which in this case merely repeats US government misinformation, as a ‘fact checker’ is misinformation.”