Climate Misinformation “Rocket Boosters” on Musk’s Twitter – The Associated Press – en Español

Climate Misinformation “Rocket Boosters” on Musk’s Twitter – The Associated Press – en Español

WASHINGTON (AP) — Search for the word “climate” on Twitter and the first automatic recommendation isn’t “climate crisis” or “climate jobs” or even “climate change,” it’s “climate fraud.”

Clicking on the recommendation leads to dozens of posts that deny the reality of climate change and make 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 environmentalists say is undermining public support for policies aimed at tackling to respond to changing climate change.

“What’s happening in the information ecosystem poses a direct threat to action,” said Jennie King, director of climate research and response at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a non-profit organization based in London. “It plants these 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 released a report on Thursday tracking disinformation about climate change in the months leading up to, during and after November’s UN climate summit.

Among other things, the report accused social media platforms of failing to enforce their own policies prohibiting climate change misinformation. It’s just the latest that draws attention to the growing problem of climate misinformation on Twitter.

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

In some cases, the ads and posts cited inflation and economic fears as reasons to resist climate policy while ignoring the costs of inaction. The researchers also found that a significant number of the accounts that post false claims about climate change also spread misinformation about US elections, COVID-19, and vaccines.

Twitter did not respond to questions from The Associated Press. A spokesman for Meta cited the company’s policy, which bans ads proven false by its fact-checking partners, a group that includes the AP. The ads identified in the report were not checked for facts.

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

According to a report released last week by nonprofit organization Advance Democracy, tweets containing “climate fraud” or other terms related to climate change denial increased by 300% in 2022. While Twitter flagged some of the content as misinformation, many of the popular posts were not flagged.

Musk’s new verification system could be part of the problem, according to a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, another organization that tracks online misinformation. Until now, the blue ticks have been held by members of the public such as journalists, government officials or celebrities.

Now anyone willing to pay $8 a month can search a tick. Posts and replies from verified accounts are automatically boosted on the platform, making them more visible than content from non-paying users.

When researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate analyzed accounts verified after Musk’s acquisition, they found that they were spreading four times as much climate change misinformation as users who were verified before Musk’s purchase.

Verification systems are usually created to reassure users that the accounts they follow are legitimate. However, Twitter’s new system makes no distinction between authoritative sources on climate change and anyone with $8 and an opinion, according to Imran Ahmed, the center’s executive director.

“We found,” Ahmed said, “that there were indeed rocket engines for spreading lies and disinformation.”


This story has been updated to correct Imran Ahmed’s last name.