WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – When searching for the word “climate” on Twitter, the first automatic recommendation in English is not “climate crisis,” not “climate jobs,” not even “climate change,” but ” climate scam”.
Clicking on that recommendation brings up dozens of posts that deny the reality of climate change and make misleading claims about efforts to mitigate it.
Such misinformation has proliferated on Twitter since Elon Musk bought the platform last year, though it is not the only place promoting content that climate scientists and activists say is needed to respond to a changing climate. weakens public support for policies for
“What happens in the information ecosystem is a direct threat to action,” said Jenny King, head of climate research and response at the London-based non-profit Institute for Strategic Dialogue. “It sows those seeds of doubt and makes people think maybe there isn’t a scientific consensus.”
The institute is part of a coalition of environmental groups that on Thursday released a report on climate misinformation during the UN climate summit in November and in the months following.
The report, among other things, singled out social media platforms for failing to enforce their own rules that prohibit climate change misinformation. This is just another example of a growing problem of climate misinformation on Twitter.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, allowed nearly 4,000 ads on its platforms – according to the researchers, most hired by fossil fuel companies – that undermined the scientific consensus on climate change and did little about it. Criticized the efforts to do so.
In some cases, advertisements and publications cited inflation and economic concerns as reasons for opposing climate policies, ignoring the costs of inaction. The researchers also found that a significant proportion of accounts making false claims about climate change were also sharing misinformation about the US election, COVID-19 and vaccines.
Twitter did not respond to questions from The Associated Press. A Meta spokesperson cited the company’s policy, which prohibits ads verified by its fact-checking partners, a group that includes the Associated Press, as false. The ads identified in the report were not verified.
Under Musk, Twitter laid off thousands of employees and made changes to its content moderation rules that critics say undermined those efforts. The firm announced in November that it would stop enforcing its rules on misinformation about COVID-19. Musk also restored the accounts of users who had been banned, including several who had spread misinformation about climate change. Hate speech cases and attacks on LGBTQ people skyrocketed.
According to a report published last week by the non-profit organization Advance Democracy, tweets containing words such as “climate scam” related to climate change increased by 300% in 2022. Although Twitter flagged some of that content as misinformation, many popular posts were not flagged.
According to a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, another organization that monitors disinformation on the internet, the new verification system introduced by Musk may be part of the problem. Until now, blue badges appeared on accounts of people such as journalists, members of the government or celebrities.
Now anyone who wants to pay $8 a month can order a badge. Posts and replies from verified accounts are automatically promoted to the platform, making them more visible to non-paying users.
When experts at the Center for Countering Digital Hate analyzed verified accounts after the Musk acquisition, they found they spread climate change misinformation four times more than verified users before the deal.
Verification systems are often built in to assure users that the accounts they follow are legitimate. The think tank’s director-general, Imran Khan, said, however, that Twitter’s new system does not differentiate between authoritative sources on climate change and someone with $8 and an opinion.
“In fact, we found that it has given wings to the spread of lies and misinformation,” he said.