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Facebook tells Elizabeth Warren it has two different standards for climate fact-checking

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Facebook says its third-party fact-checking partners “do review and rate climate misinformation, and there has never been a prohibition against them doing so,” in a response to criticism from Democratic senators. Facebook will continue its policy of exempting “clear opinion content” from fact-checking, the letter says. The senators are unsatisfied.

In the response, which was shared exclusively with The Verge, the tech behemoth says it does not consider all climate change content “opinion.” But opinion articles about climate change don’t receive fact-checking, a policy Facebook says it began in 2016.

“We asked Facebook leadership to close the loopholes that let climate disinformation spread on their platforms,” Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tom Carper, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Brian Schatz said in a statement. “Their response: we should trust them to make and follow their own rules and procedures, even if it results in the distortion of facts and the mass dissemination of falsehoods. The future of our planet is at stake, and there should be no company too big, too powerful, and too opaque to be held accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Facebook is no exception.”

Facebook has been accused of allowing climate denial to fester on its platform. Last August, it removed a “false” rating from an op-ed published by the Washington Examiner that cast doubt on the accuracy of climate change models. Initially, Facebook’s independent fact checker flagged the article as “highly misleading” because it included inaccurate information and cherry-picked data. But the CO2 Coalition, a non-profit group created by former Trump advisor William Happer, protested the rating.

Facebook ultimately caved, E&E News reported in June. According to E&E News, Facebook created a de facto loophole for opinion articles to escape fact checking. But Facebook says that this was the policy the entire time.

As a result of the dust-up, the senators wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on July 15th. They objected to the alleged loophole and demanded Facebook explain how the decision to change the rating was made. “The climate crisis and environmental degradation are not matters of opinion,” they wrote.

“Placing statements that are verifiably false in an opinion section shouldn’t grant immunity from fact-checking,” Scott Johnson, a science editor at one of Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers called Science Feedback, told The New York Times in July.

Facebook has told its independent fact-checkers that opinion content is not subject to fact-checking, the company said in response to the senators. (The company told The New York Times that the policy has been in place since 2016.) “However, when someone presents content based on underlying false information as opinion — even in the form of an op-ed or editorial — it is still eligible for fact-checking,” it added.

In their letter, the senators asked if disinformation around climate change is treated differently than fake COVID-19 posts — and if so, why. Climate change misinformation isn’t a priority for Facebook, Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications director, told The New York Times in July. Instead, the company is most concerned with more immediate threats like hate speech or coronavirus disinformation.

Climate change is expected to lead to an additional 250,000 deaths every year between 2030 and 2050 because of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress, according to the World Health Organization.

The Democratic senators aren’t the only ones worried about the damage that lies about climate change could do. A majority of polled voters think Facebook should label opinion articles containing false information about climate change as false, according to a recent survey by the think tank Data for Progress.

Source : TheVerge ScienceRead More

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Science

Too bright to breed

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Night light from coastal cities overpowers natural signals for coral spawning from neighboring reefs.

PHOTO: NOKURO/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Most coral species reproduce through broadcast spawning. For such a strategy to be successful, coordination has had to evolve such that gametes across clones are released simultaneously. Over millennia, lunar cycles have facilitated this coordination, but the recent development of bright artificial light has led to an overpowering of these natural signals. Ayalon et al. tested for the direct impact of different kinds of artificial light on different species of corals. The authors found that multiple lighting types, including cold and warm light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, led to loss of synchrony and spawning failure. Further, coastal maps of artificial lighting globally suggest that it threatens to interfere with coral reproduction worldwide and that the deployment of LED lights, the blue light of which penetrates deeper into the water column, is likely to make the situation even worse.

Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.039 (2020).

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SpaceX launches Starlink app and provides pricing and service info to early beta testers

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SpaceX has debuted an official app for its Starlink satellite broadband internet service, for both iOS and Android devices. The Starlink app allows users to manage their connection – but to take part you’ll have to be part of the official beta program, and the initial public rollout of that is only just about to begin, according to emails SpaceX sent to potential beta testers this week.

The Starlink app provides guidance on how to install the Starlink receiver dish, as well as connection status (including signal quality), a device overview for seeing what’s connected to your network, and a speed test tool. It’s similar to other mobile apps for managing home wifi connections and routers. Meanwhile, the emails to potential testers that CNBC obtained detail what users can expect in terms of pricing, speeds and latency.

The initial Starlink public beta test is called the “Better than Nothing Beta Program,” SpaceX confirms in their app description, and will be rolled out across the U.S. and Canada before the end of the year – which matches up with earlier stated timelines. As per the name, SpaceX is hoping to set expectations for early customers, with speeds users can expect ranging from between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency of 20ms to 40ms according to the customer emails, with some periods including no connectivity at all. Even with expectations set low, if those values prove accurate, it should be a big improvement for users in some hard-to-reach areas where service is currently costly, unreliable and operating at roughly dial-up equivalent speeds.

Image Credits: SpaceX

In terms of pricing, SpaceX says in the emails that the cost for participants in this beta program will be $99 per moth, plus a one-time cost of $499 initially to pay for the hardware, which includes the mounting kit and receiver dish, as well as a router with wifi networking capabilities.

The goal eventually is offer reliably, low-latency broadband that provides consistent connection by handing off connectivity between a large constellation of small satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit. Already, SpaceX has nearly 1,000 of those launched, but it hopes to launch many thousands more before it reaches global coverage and offers general availability of its services.

SpaceX has already announced some initial commercial partnerships and pilot programs for Starlink, too, including a team-up with Microsoft to connect that company’s mobile Azure data centers, and a project with an East Texas school board to connect the local community.

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Erratum for the Report “Meta-analysis reveals declines in terrestrial but increases in freshwater insect abundances” by R. Van Klink, D. E. Bowler, K. B. Gongalsky, A. B. Swengel, A. Gentile, J. M. Chase

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S. Rennie, J. Adamson, R. Anderson, C. Andrews, J. Bater, N. Bayfield, K. Beaton, D. Beaumont, S. Benham, V. Bowmaker, C. Britt, R. Brooker, D. Brooks, J. Brunt, G. Common, R. Cooper, S. Corbett, N. Critchley, P. Dennis, J. Dick, B. Dodd, N. Dodd, N. Donovan, J. Easter, M. Flexen, A. Gardiner, D. Hamilton, P. Hargreaves, M. Hatton-Ellis, M. Howe, J. Kahl, M. Lane, S. Langan, D. Lloyd, B. McCarney, Y. McElarney, C. McKenna, S. McMillan, F. Milne, L. Milne, M. Morecroft, M. Murphy, A. Nelson, H. Nicholson, D. Pallett, D. Parry, I. Pearce, G. Pozsgai, A. Riley, R. Rose, S. Schafer, T. Scott, L. Sherrin, C. Shortall, R. Smith, P. Smith, R. Tait, C. Taylor, M. Taylor, M. Thurlow, A. Turner, K. Tyson, H. Watson, M. Whittaker, I. Woiwod, C. Wood, UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) Moth Data: 1992-2015, NERC Environmental Information Data Centre (2018); .

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