Climate Misinformation Soars on Musk's Twitter

Tweets containing terms linked to climate change denial rose 300% last year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 19, 2023 1:29 PM CST
Climate Misinformation Soars on Musk's Twitter
Bruce McDougal watches embers fly over his property as the Bond Fire burns through the Silverado community in Orange County, Calif., on Dec. 3, 2020. New research shows climate misinformation has been flourishing on Twitter since Elon Musk purchased the platform in 2022.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

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, per the AP. 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 UN climate summit in November. The report faulted social media platforms for, among other things, failing to enforce their own policies prohibiting climate change misinformation.

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. Researchers also found that a significant number of the accounts posting false claims about climate change also spread misinformation about US elections, COVID-19, and vaccines. 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.

story continues below

Tweets containing 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. 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. Twitter did not respond to questions from the AP. (More misinformation stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.