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Senator hits back at Facebook ‘factcheckers’ for censoring his climate change meme and getting their own facts wrong

A Liberal National senator has written to the government calling for an end to social media censorship after being falsely “factchecked” by Facebook for a meme mocking climate change alarmism.

Gerard Rennick, LNP Senator for Queensland, on Tuesday posted a meme titled “What sea level rise doesn’t look like” with two photos of Sydney Harbour from 1932 and the current year showing no noticeable difference in sea levels.

But Facebook added a “false information” warning to the post, saying it had been checked by “independent factcheckers”, forcing users to click “see why” and then “see post” to view the image.

The meme shared by Senator Rennick
The “factcheck” as it appeared on Senator Rennick’s post

The “see why” link led to a USA Today article “debunking” the claim the meme shows sea levels haven’t risen in Sydney Harbour, but Mr Rennick pointed out a key calculation in the piece was wrong, and showed that sea levels have risen by only 1cm over the past 100 years rather than 7.5cm as claimed in the piece. [Editor’s note: Mr Rennick’s calculations are correct]

“Sorry factcheckers but the joke is on you. One centimetre over a century would have to be well within the margin of error and probably less than the surrounding land rise,” he wrote.

Mr Rennick then wrote to Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland requesting “censorship by unaccountable foreign companies end”.

“USA Today and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, are both foreign companies,” he wrote in the letter dated January 23.

“They should not be allowed to censor without debate what an elected Australian politician or any Australian says. This is clearly a case of foreign interference and should be called out.”

Mr Rennick went on to warn that he fears Labor’s proposed Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation Bill will only increase censorship.

The bill aims to give the Australian government more powers to combat online “misinformation” and “disinformation”, but critics have warned the bill is too broad, vague and subjective, sets far too low a harm threshold, excludes the government, and risks being used to legitimise efforts to censor opposing or minority views and shut down public debate.

In November the Albanese government said it would overhaul the draft bill after more than 3,000 submissions and 23,000 responses were recorded during submission.

This is not the first time Facebook’s “factcheckers” have been caught getting their own facts wrong.

In August Meta suspended RMIT FactLab after claims it was biased in favour of the Voice to Parliament Yes campaign following a dispute over the length of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

A Sky News investigation found was uncertified while applying 23 Voice “factchecks” between May and June last year, all of which opposed the referendum, and is run by a boss and staff who openly share partisan political views on social media.

Read Mr Rennick’s letter here:

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