In a recent controversy, Facebook has come under fire for entering the debate surrounding the increase in whale deaths along the east coast, potentially linked to offshore wind farms.
Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger has accused the social media giant of censoring accurate information.
This issue arose when Facebook placed a content warning on a post discussing the beaching of nearly 300 whales since 2017.
While officials have acknowledged an “unusual mortality event” on the east coast over the last six years, they have denied that the newly established wind farms are responsible for these strandings.
Allegations of Censorship and Government Cover-up
The situation escalated shortly after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced allegations of removing posts on the orders of the White House.
Shellenberger raised concerns about Facebook’s role in suppressing accurate information about the connection between industrial wind energy development and the rising number of whale deaths off the East Coast.
He questioned why Facebook was censoring factual information while promoting misinformation.
Wind Farm Development Amidst Controversy
Despite the growing controversy, the White House has moved forward with plans to deploy offshore wind farms, aiming to reach 30 gigawatts by 2030, sufficient to power millions of homes.
Currently, two wind farms are already operational off Rhode Island and Virginia Beach, with two more under construction off Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
This development has sparked outrage from conservationists and commercial fishing operators.
The Virginia wind farm, with an expected 175 wind turbines by 2026, is particularly contentious.
Concerns and Calls for Action
Environmental groups like Clean Ocean Action have expressed concerns about the rapid expansion of offshore wind farms and their potential impact on marine life.
They called on President Joe Biden to halt wind farm projects, citing evidence of a link between the projects and the increase in whale deaths.
Critics argue that the unprecedented scope and scale of offshore wind powerplant activity in the region could be contributing to the alarming number of deaths.
Debunking the Connection
Facebook’s fact-checking partners, including Factcheck.org, have worked to address the debate.
They emphasize that multiple factors contribute to the hazards faced by marine species, including climate change affecting migration routes and prey distribution.
Autopsies conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggest that boat collisions and entanglement in fishing gear have been responsible for a significant portion of whale deaths.
However, determining the exact cause of death remains challenging due to rapid decomposition of carcasses.
Facebook’s Role and Response
Facebook’s involvement in this controversy has been marked by its fact-checking policies.
The social media platform automatically reduces the visibility of posts flagged by its fact-checking partners, like AFP, to counter false or misleading content.
Despite this, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, recently adjusted settings to allow users to partially disable the fact-checking they see.
Shellenberger has criticized Facebook’s labeling of fact-checkers, suggesting that they are promoting their opinions as facts.
In the midst of this complex situation, Facebook finds itself caught between allegations of censorship, concerns about environmental impact, and the broader challenges of moderating information on its platform.