Twitter Faces Surge in Climate Change Denialism, Scientists Seek Alternatives.

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Hostile Climate on Twitter

Scientists, facing insults and mass-spam, are abandoning Twitter in favor of alternative social networks due to the surge of climate change denialism on the platform following Elon Musk’s takeover. Since Musk took over in October 2022, there has been an increase in hate speech and misinformation related to climate science, making it harder for experts to communicate about the topic on the platform they rely on.

Resistance to Climate Reform

As policies aimed at curbing the effects of climate change gain momentum, opponents of climate reform have organized and intensified their resistance. Climate specialists, with large followings, have reported amplification of racism and sexism on Twitter. Peter Gleick, a climate and water specialist, announced that he would no longer post on the platform due to the escalating abuse he has experienced since the takeover.

Decline in Climate Tweets

An analysis conducted by physicist Robert Rohde showed that climate scientists’ tweets were losing impact after the takeover. The average number of likes and retweets on climate-related tweets decreased significantly. Twitter has not directly commented on the changes it made to its algorithms, but Elon Musk’s tweet in January suggested that deliberate changes were made to expose users to opposing viewpoints.

Climate Denial Bots

Climatologist Katharine Hayhoe conducted an experiment to monitor responses to her climate change tweets before and after the takeover. She found a substantial increase in hostile comments, many of which appeared to come from bots pushing mass misinformation. This rise in inauthentic accounts was identified through analysis tools like Bot Sentinel. The presence of trolls or bots increased 15 to 30 times compared to previous years.

Scientists Seek Alternatives

In response to the declining engagement and increased misinformation on Twitter, scientists are seeking alternative platforms. Some, like Andrew Dessler, are moving their climate communication to platforms like Substack, a newsletter platform. Others have completely abandoned Twitter. Glaciologist Ruth Mottram, for example, joined an alternative scientists’ forum powered by Mastodon, a crowdfunded and decentralized social network.

‘Organized’ Misinformation Campaign

Climate scientist Michael Mann believes that the surge in misinformation is an organized and orchestrated effort by opponents of climate reforms. He has personally experienced increased trolling and attacks on his tweets. In his book, “The New Climate War,” Mann documented the actions of oil producers in spreading climate denialism on social media. He describes professional trolls manipulating the online environment to generate conflict and division.

The Impact and Future of Climate Communication

The hostile climate on Twitter and the rise of climate change denialism pose challenges for scientists communicating about climate science. The move to alternative platforms reflects a growing frustration with the limitations and negative experiences on Twitter. The impact of these shifts on public engagement with climate science remains to be seen, but scientists are actively seeking platforms where thoughtful and informed discussions can take place without constant abuse and misinformation.


Images: Bangkok Post.

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