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Meta Faces New Whistleblower Complaints Over Climate Change, COVID Misinformation

The two new complaints were filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this month.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is facing new whistleblower complaints accusing it of misleading investors about its efforts to fight climate change and COVID-19 misinformation. 

The two new complaints were filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this month by Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit group representing former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower Frances Haugen. The complaints allege that Facebook made "material misrepresentations" and omitted information in statements to investors about its efforts to stem misinformation on its platforms, according to The Washington Post, which cited redacted copies of the documents. 

Whistleblower Aid confirmed it submitted the complaints to the SEC, saying investors have a legal right to truthful answers from the company. 

"The documents shared with the SEC make it totally clear that Facebook was saying one thing in private and another in public regarding its approach to climate change and COVID-19 misinformation," said Andrew Bakaj, senior counsel at Whistleblower Aid, in an emailed statement. 

The SEC declined to comment. 

One of the new complaints alleges that climate change misinformation was "prominently available" on Facebook despite comments from executives about being committed to fighting the "global crisis," according to the Post. The other complaint reportedly says internal documents highlighted the proliferation of COVID-19 misinformation, including vaccine hesitancy, even as Facebook executives touted efforts to remove this harmful content. 

For years, Facebook has faced criticism that it doesn't do enough to combat hate speech and stop the spread of misinformation. Last year, Haugen accused the company of putting profits over user safety and leaked internal research to Congress and the SEC. The Wall Street Journal and then a consortium of US and international news outlets published stories based on some of those documents.

Facebook has said the leaked internal documents are being mischaracterized to paint a "false picture" of the company. The social network says more than 40,000 people work on safety and security, and it's invested over $13 billion in these issues on its platforms.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the company said it's committed to fighting misinformation and highlighted its Climate Science Center -- a resource to connect people with up-to-date climate information -- and its work with independent fact-checkers. 

"There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to stopping the spread of misinformation, but we're committed to building new tools and policies to combat it," said Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri in an emailed statement.