Facebook stops wrong claims about fires in the western United States

In a rare move, Facebook says it is taking action against posts that falsely assert wildfires in Oregon have been started by AntiFa, by removing these posts.

Wildfires have been raging on throughout the West Coast for weeks and according to a conspiracy theory spread by followers of Q-Anon (a far-right conspiracy theory started on 4chan), they were lit by members of AntiFa (“Anti-Fascists,” who are often portrayed as far-left terrorists in Trump Campaign advertisements and circles).

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CNN reports that Facebook has said it will remove false claims regarding the wildfires in Oregon. Beginning at least Thursday, law-enforcement in the area was bombarded with calls regarding the rumors that AntiFa has been starting the ongoing wildfires. By Friday, the FBI Portland needed to publish a statement disavowing the theory as false.

The wildfires in Oregon are just a few of many wildfires currently ravaging the West Coast. The New York Times reports that “powerful winds helped spark fires and propel existing ones, leaving millions of acres charred and thousands of structures destroyed.“ Governor Kate Brown (D-Ore.) told CBS that drought-like conditions, high temperatures, and extreme winds are to blame, saying they’ve created the “perfect firestorm.”

Al Jazeera goes on to report that at least 33 recent deaths can be attributed to these fires, including 22 Californians, 10 Oregonians, and 1 Washingtonian.

Pictures have gone viral of deep orange skies over California, specifically San Francisco, as fires not only alter the sky’s hue but cause ash to fall from above, like snow. Data suggests the five most air-polluted cities at the moment are all in California and north, through British Columbia, at the moment.

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PurpleAir is a website that compiles and displays air quality information. The following was their map as of 7:30 AM EDT on September 14, 2020. For context, 0 to 50 Air Quality Index is what is considered healthy for all humans. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous for the whole population.

The wildfires on the West Coast, and the destruction they have wrought, put on full display national battles over the issues of censorship and climate. For months, Facebook has often declined to censor statements that may be harmful to public health, especially when from public figures. A rare example of Facebook censoring a publicly harmful post occurred in August when Facebook removed a post by President Donald Trump falsely claiming children are “almost immune” from Covid-19. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg said he did not want his platform to become the “arbiter of truth.” In the same vein, Facebook has said they will not permit any political advertisement from either side beginning a week before Election Day.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in these western states have been quick to point out a clear connection between the causes of these fires and the ever-worsening climate. For those in the west, these fires are a prime example of the climate crisis. For those in the east and in the south, the ongoing 2020 Atlantic hurricane season being the most active ever recorded also serves as a testament.

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As it stands, plenty more will lose their lives to wildfires out west. As it stands, plenty more will suffer the dangerous heat, the horrible air quality, and overall restraints currently present on the West Coast. However, as the climate worsens, these painful symptoms will grow worse, and the government will grow more helpless to stop them. With orange skies and ash falling from above dominating California, and dangerous levels of air purity hurting the entire coast, only time will tell if humanity got its act together and acted to save humanity from its indulgences.

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