Can intentionally providing climate change disinformation known to the provider to be false be construed as fraud? Initially I was thinking that this might be consumer fraud by tiny little news outlets.

  • Are you specifically asking about news reports, or more generally the intersection of fraud and climate change such as a existing fraud suits against Exxon?
    – user6726
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:08
  • user6726@ I just want to find some way to silence the voice of all those that know they are lying about anthropogenic global heating. Differences of opinion would still be allowed misconceptions would be corrected. Intentionally promulgating known counter-factual disinformation would be punished.
    – user28347
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


Can intentionally providing climate change disinformation known to the provider to be false be construed as fraud?

No. That is insufficient for a finding of fraud.

One of the prima facie elements of fraud is that the consumer of provider's information incur losses (aka consequent damage) as a result of that misrepresentation. See Elcon Const. v. Eastern Washington Univ., 273 P.3d 965, 970 (2012).

Even if the consumer incurs losses, he might be unable to prove another element: that of reasonable "reliance on the truth of the representation". The consumer would have a hard time persuading that he had a good reason to rely on that provider on an issue that is highly controversial, and on which the provider cannot be expected to have the last word.

  • What about if oil companies are hiring people to lie about anthropogenic global heating for the purpose of selling more oil than would be possible on the basis of the actual truth? The New York case against Exxon is about defrauding investors about known risks.
    – user28347
    Nov 1, 2019 at 18:39
  • @polcott arguing about scientific fact is not fraud. You have to cause someone or a legal organization losses, in other words defrauding them.
    – Putvi
    Nov 1, 2019 at 18:49
  • @polcott I am not familiar with the NY vs. Exxon case or whether it has been ruled/appealed yet. But hiring staff to lie about global heating still falls short of proving the aforementioned elements (losses and reasonable reliance). Also, one private plaintiff (or a group thereof) is unlikely to have standing on environmental issues, or to prove that specifically Exxon caused concrete damages to the plaintiff(s). As for the investors, it seems to me that they would fail on the element of reasonable reliance for the reason I mentioned in the 2nd paragraph of the answer. Nov 1, 2019 at 18:57
  • @IñakiViggers The investors would reasonably rely on Exxon accurately reporting its future risks and thus the risk to their investment in Exxon. Therefore intentionally misrepresenting these risks would only seem to be investor fraud.
    – user28347
    Nov 1, 2019 at 19:02
  • @polcott Your point is well taken, which then prompts the question of why NY is suing Exxon and not the SEC or the investors themselves (if by risks it is meant the investment ones). Without knowing the details of the proceedings, one would think that "risks" refers to environmental ones. Nov 1, 2019 at 19:30

It's not fraud because you aren't defrauding anyone out of anything.

If you lie to someone about a topic, it's up to them to do the research and find the truth or what their opinion is.

If you lie about a person or organization you may be sued for libel if you don't retract it. http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/retraction-law-california

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