Climate misinformation ‘rocket boosters’ on Elon Musk’s Twitter

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The posts cited inflation and economic fears as reasons to oppose climate policies.

Search for the word “climate” on Twitter and the first automatic recommendation isn’t “climate crisis” or “climate jobs” or even “climate change” but instead “climate scam.”

Clicking on the recommendation yields dozens of posts denying the reality of climate change and making misleading claims about efforts to mitigate it.

Such misinformation has flourished on Twitter since it was bought by Elon Musk last year, but the site isn’t the only one promoting content that scientists and environmental advocates say undercuts public support for policies intended to respond to a changing climate.

“What’s happening in the information ecosystem poses a direct threat to action,” said Jennie King, head of climate research and response at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based nonprofit. “It plants those seeds of doubt and makes people think maybe there isn’t scientific consensus.”

The institute is part of a coalition of environmental advocacy groups that on Thursday released a report tracking climate change disinformation in the months before, during and after the U.N. climate summit in November.

The report faulted social media platforms for, among other things, failing to enforce their own policies prohibiting climate change misinformation. It is only the latest to highlight the growing problem of climate misinformation on Twitter.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, allowed nearly 4,000 advertisements on its site — most bought by fossil fuel companies — that dismissed the scientific consensus behind climate change and criticized efforts to respond to it, the researchers found.

In some cases, the ads and the posts cited inflation and economic fears as reasons to oppose climate policies, while ignoring the costs of inaction. Researchers also found that a significant number of the accounts posting false claims about climate change also spread misinformation about U.S. elections, COVID-19 and vaccines.

Twitter did not respond to questions from The Associated Press. A spokesperson for Meta cited the company’s policy prohibiting ads that have been proven false by its fact checking partners, a group that includes the AP. The ads identified in the report had not been fact-checked.

Under Musk, Twitter laid off thousands of employees and made changes to its content moderation that its critics said undercut the effort. In November, the company announced it would no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation. Musk also reinstated many formerly banned users, including several who had spread misleading claims about climate change. Instances of hate speech and attacks on LGBTQ people soared.

Tweets containing “climate scam” or other terms linked to climate change denial rose 300% in 2022, according to a report released last week by the nonprofit Advance Democracy. While Twitter had labeled some of the content as misinformation, many of the popular posts were not labeled.

Musk’s new verification system could be part of the problem, according to a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, another organization that tracks online misinformation. Previously, the blue checkmarks were held by people in the public eye such as journalists, government officials or celebrities.

Now, anyone willing to pay $8 a month can seek a checkmark. Posts and replies from verified accounts are given an automatic boost on the platform, making them more visible than content from users who don’t pay.

When researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate analyzed accounts verified after Musk took over, they found they spread four times the amount of climate change misinformation compared with users verified before Musk’s purchase.

Verification systems are typically created to assure users that the accounts they follow are legitimate. Twitter’s new system, however, makes no distinction between authoritative sources on climate change and anyone with $8 and an opinion, according to Imran Khan, the center’s chief executive.

“We found,” Khan said, “it has in fact put rocket boosters on the spread of lies and disinformation.”

Associated Press


  • Brian Staver

    January 19, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    Many people have sought to dismiss climate change throughout the years. But as always, I will support the 11,000+ scientists and decades of research over their claims. BTW inflation, as predicted, is starting to slow and re-seed, but climate change has not and will not because of idiots like those spreading misinformation. Scientists from across time have all been ringing the bell about climate change from Exxon’s engineering group publishing a letter explaining the issue and a bunch of old scientists back in the late 1800 hundreds who also did the math. If you want to figure it out you can also use the same formula they have. Another issue we need to be aware of is the release of natural gas from hundreds of thousands of uncapped oil wells. These wells are now producing copious amounts of methane (natural gas) containing Benzene gas. This gas is odorless and tasteless and causees an extensive range of diseases including many forms of cancer. So all you climate deniers out there wondering how you got cancer just look to your own stupidity to understand how Benzine may have contributed in your desease. I am also very disappointed in Elon. I thought he was the person that we could count on to help spread the word about climate change being a real thing and help fix what we can.

  • Brian Staver

    January 19, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    The following is a summary of James Black’s (Exxon Engineer) presentation to the Exxon executives on July 6, 1978
    The Greenhouse Effect
    Ref. No: 78pR 461

    A summary of my talk is presented in Vugraph 18. In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels. A doubling of carbon dioxide is estimated to increase the average global temperature from 1 deg to 3 deg C with a 10 deg c rise predicted at the poles. More research is needed, however, to establish the validity and significance of predictions with respect to the greenhouse effect. it is currently estimated that mankind has a 5-10 yr. time window to obtainthe necessary information. The U.S. Department of Energy is considering a major research effort in this area.
    The scientific community of 11 thousand plus scientists is still collecting data. As our computers and the data have become even more exact it has been confirmed that we are causing climate change.

    My conclusion:
    From reading tens of tens of scientific reports created by 11 thousand scientists we have passed the time to take sufficient action to stop climate change. We can, however, mitigate its effects by blocking the burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, for various reasons, this is not going to happen. So the deniers have won their battle. Now we have to figure out how we can save humanity as we are already in the middle of an extinction-level event. Good luck to all, and remember you have the Republicans to thank for this eventuality.

Comments are closed.


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