Elon Musk points finger at 2022 climate change conspiracy theories coming into effect

Climate change misinformation has proliferated online in 2022, researchers say, pointing to the impact of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which reinstated many banned accounts.

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“What really surprised us this year was the resurgence of language reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate fraud’ denying the phenomenon of climate change.”said Jennie King of the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).

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Among the most popular false claims are that CO2 does not play a role in climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of associations, reports.

False information spread on Twitter after it was hijacked by Elon Musk

An analysis of Twitter posts for AFP by two computer scientists at City University London found 1.1 million tweets or retweets using climatesceptic terms in 2022.

That’s almost twice as much as in 2021, according to researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baroncelli, who noted that climate change misinformation peaked in December, a month after the COP27 summit and billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.

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The American group Center for Combating Digital Hate (CCDH) pointed the finger at Elon Musk, who reinstated many banned Twitter accounts and opened the option to pay for a verified account.

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“Elon Musk’s decision to open his platform to hate and misinformation has led to an explosion of climate misinformation on the platform”Callum Hood, head of research at CCHR, said.

A quarter of climate-skeptic tweets come from 10 accounts

The American billionaire himself warned about the dangers of global warming in August 2022. “high risk”.

Using the hashtag #ClimateScam (“climate fraud”) has exploded on Twitter since July 2022, according to analysis by CAAD and CCDH. For weeks, it was even the most suggested search term on the site for people who typed in the word. “weather”.

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A quarter of all climate-skeptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Maxime Bernier, leader of Canada’s right-wing populist party, and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.

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TikTok and YouTube are also concerned

Other social networks are also affected. According to Advance Democracy (ADI), videos using hashtags related to climate change denial on TikTok gained 4.9 million views.

A video search often returned advertisements for climate-aseptic products. The ads were later removed, YouTube spokeswoman Elena Hernandez told AFP. TikTok and Twitter declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

“Conspiracy is a very effective ideological program”

On the contrary, ADI on Facebook found that the number of such publications decreased compared to 2021. CAAD notes in its report that climate-skeptic content is regularly linked to fake elections, vaccinations, the Covid pandemic, migration and other false information…

“We are definitely seeing an increase in conspiracy theories. Climate is the new divisive topic in the discussion of ideas.ISD’s Jennie King emphasizes.

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Call to reduce the audience of climate skeptics

The vast majority of world scientists agree that humanity is warming the planet by burning fossil fuels.

“There is no doubt that human influence is warming the atmosphere, oceans and land”In its 2021 report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for reducing CO2 emissions as much as possible to avoid the worst consequences of this warming.

“We encourage platforms to think about the very real consequences of climate change”CCDH’s Callum Hood insists. “Repeatedly spreading blatantly false climate information should no longer have an audience.”.

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