Facebook has buried the page of Conservative non-profit group PragerU and “reduced distribution” of its posts claiming that PragerU has engaged in “repeated sharing of false news.” The decision comes on the heels of a fact check of a PragerU video about polar bears by Facebook third-party fact-checker Climate Feedback.
Conservative non-profit group PragerU is once again facing censorship from tech giants. Facebook has reportedly reduced the reach of PragerU’s page on its platform and implemented restriction for the “repeated sharing of false news,” according to notifications that PragerU has received from Facebook following Mark Zuckerberg’s third-party fact-checker Climate Feedback labeling a PragerU video on polar bears as fake news.
In another tweet, PragerU called Facebook out, stating “if you truly value freedom of expression, as you often claim, you wouldn’t hide behind fact-checkers targeting ideas they disagree with.”
Soon after PragerU’s tweet, readers began reporting that certain content that they attempted to share from the group’s Facebook page was being met with warnings from Facebook that PragerU was sharing false information.
The video that was labeled as false by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers can be found here. and relates to the alleged effect of climate change on the polar bear population. When attempting to access the video, a large overlay appears on the video stating that according to ClimateFeedback, PragerU’s video is false news.
Breitbart News has previously reported on the website Climate Feedback, reporter James Delingpole reported on the site in 2017 debunking a report from the site and stating that it was “set up last year at the height of the left’s “fake news” witch hunt, hosted and primarily funded by the University of California Merced’s Center for Climate For Communication – ie your tax dollar at work… – and describing itself as a “Signatory” of something called ‘International Fact-Checking Network.'”
Climate Feedback now alleges that PragerU’s video is “cherry-picking,” stating: “There is no scientific evidence that the global polar bear population is growing and there is evidence that several subpopulations are declining. Only two of the 19 polar bear subpopulations are likely increasing in size.”
The author of the scientific study referenced by PragerU, Susan Crockford, responded to the video in a blog post. In a statement on the blog, Crockford discussed PragerU’s video, saying:
Thanks for the opportunity to respond. I stand behind the accuracy of the video but wish they had cited my scientific paper, my fully referenced new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, and/or The State of the Polar Bear Report 2019, also fully referenced. [links provided to Crockford 2017, 2019, 2020] I will post a full response on my blog but would like to point out the following.
Regarding the challenge of the adjective ‘thriving’ used in the video, in the review both Derocher and Stirling referred to Barents and Chukchi Sea polar bears as doing “OK”. I contend this is a gross misrepresentation of the published literature on these bears. There have been a number of papers published on Chukchi Sea bears documenting that body condition and reproduction are better now than in the 1980s and a recent paper on the body condition of female Barents Sea bears stated: “Unexpectedly, body condition of female polar bears from the Barents Sea has increased after 2005, although sea ice has retreated by ∼50% since the late 1990s in the area, and the length of the ice-free season has increased by over 20 weeks between 1979 and 2013. These changes are also accompanied by winter sea ice retreat that is especially pronounced in the Barents Sea compared to other Arctic areas” [Lippold et al. 2019:988]
Biologically speaking, since the premise of the assumption that polar bear populations will decline with reduced summer sea ice is that bears will be in poor condition and reproducing poorly, it is logical to assume that bears with good body condition and reproducing well belong to thriving populations, regardless of the fact that the sea ice in their region is much reduced.
In addition, Stirling further stated that “…a couple [subpopulations] are doing OK, such as Foxe Basin and Davis Straight, and one seems to be increasing (M’Clintock Channel).” It is odd that Stirling fails to mention Kane Basin, shown on the status map provided as also ‘likely increasing’ (as documented in 2016 population survey report) and yet mentions M’Clintock Channel bears seem to be increasing even though the results of a long-awaited population survey, now long overdue, have not yet been made public.
The polar bear data are contradictory: contrary to predictions, several polar bear subpopulations (at least four of them) are indeed thriving despite much reduced summer sea ice. I have chosen to emphasis that good news, while Stirling and Derocher choose to emphasize the data that seem to fit their predictions. This is a classic conflict that happens all the time in science but presents no proof that I’m wrong or that the PragerU video is inherently ‘false’.
Breitbart News reached out to PragerU for comment on the situation, PragerU provided the following statement:
We recently received a notification from Facebook that our page will now have “reduced distribution and other restrictions because of repeated sharing of false news.” This is due to one of our recent videos about the polar bear population – which was rated as false by a 3rd party “fact-checker” (despite us including a source to all the facts provided in the video). Despite over 3 million followers voluntarily opting in to be able to view PragerU posts in the news feed, Facebook has now decided they will not allow many of our followers to see future posts.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long-running pattern of big tech companies silencing conservative speech on their platforms. Clearly Facebook wants to keep its hands clean and pass all responsibility for content moderation to these 3rd party “fact-checkers”. Facebook claims that we can appeal directly with the fact-checker, but they themselves won’t do anything about it. This is truly cowardly. Facebook should get a backbone and stand up for free speech.
If Facebook truly valued freedom of expression, as they often claim to, they wouldn’t allow 3rd party “fact-checkers” to target content they simply disagree with – ultimately resulting in the reduced reach on our page.
A Facebook spokesperson commented on the labeling of PragerU’s video, stating:
Third-party fact-checking partners operate independently from Facebook and are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network. Publishers appeal to individual fact-checkers directly to dispute ratings
PragerU has faced censorship from multiple tech platforms including Spotify and YouTube. Breitbart News also reported in 2018 that Facebook claimed that a 99.9999 percent drop in engagement on PragerU’s page was the result of an “employee error.”