Scientists suffering from insults and mass-spam have left Twitter for alternative social networks while anti-climate change has surged on the platform after the takeover of Elon Musk.
Researchers have documented an explosion of hate and misinformation on Twitter since the Tesla billionaire took over in October 2022 — and now experts say the conversation about climate science on the social network most of them rely on more difficult.
Policies aimed at preventing the deadly effects of climate change are gaining momentum, prompting the rise of what experts say is organized resistance by opponents of climate reform.
Peter Gleick, a climate and water specialist with nearly 99,000 followers, announced on May 21 that he would no longer post on the platform because it promoted racism and sexism.
To my faithful followers,
I can’t stay active here anymore. Musk and his blue-checked shock troops have finished turning Twitter into a toxic, hate-filled, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic cesspool. I will not be posting any new content other than information on my new book. For ingredients..
— The real Peter Gleick💧 (@PeterGleick) May 21, 2023
While he is used to “offensive, personal, ad hominem attacks, up to and including direct physical threats”, he told AFP, “in the last few months, since the takeover and transformation of Twitter, the Amount, danger, and intensity of the abuse has increased.”
Climate tweets are down
Robert Rohde, a physicist and lead scientist at the non-profit environmental data analysis group Berkeley Earth, analyzed the activity of hundreds of accounts by widely followed specialists who post about climate science. before and after extraction.
He found that climate scientists’ tweets lost their impact. The average number of likes they received dropped 38 percent and the average retweets fell 40 percent.
Twitter has not directly commented on what changes it has made to the algorithms that drive traffic and views.
Contacted at its email address for comment, its press department returned its usual response, an automated email with a “poop” emoji.
But in a tweet seen as an acknowledgment of a deliberate change, Musk wrote in January: “People on the right need to see more ‘left wing’ stuff and the people on the left need to see more ‘right-wing’ stuff. But you can just block it if you want to stay in an echo chamber.”
People on the right should see more “left wing” things and people on the left should see more “right wing” things.
But you can block it if you want to stay in an echo chamber.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2023
Climate denial bots
In another analysis, prominent climatologist Katharine Hayhoe monitored responses to a tweet about climate change that she published twice, as an experiment, on separate dates before and after the takeover.
He counts negative comments and checks them for signs they come from bots — automated accounts that researchers say push a lot of misinformation.
Fake accounts can be identified through analysis tools such as Bot Sentinel.
Responses from apparent trolls or bots increased 15 to 30 times in a two-month period compared to the previous two years, Hayhoe tweeted in January 2023.
“Before October, my account was growing at a rate of at least a few thousand new followers a month. Since then, it hasn’t changed,” he told AFP.
Scientists leave Twitter
Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, said he has moved much of his climate communication to Substack, a newsletter platform.
“Climatic communications on Twitter are not very useful (now) because I see my tweets are decreasing,” he said.
“In response to almost any tweet about climate change, I find that my notifications are flooded with replies from verified accounts making false or false claims.”
Some have left Twitter entirely.
Hayhoe said that of a Twitter list of 3,000 climate scientists he kept, 100 disappeared after the takeover.
Glaciologist Ruth Mottram had more than 10,000 followers on Twitter but left in February and joined an alternative forum of scientists run by Mastodon — a crowdfunded, decentralized social networking group founded in 2016.
“It’s really been a revelation in many ways. It’s a very quiet and very thoughtful platform,” he told AFP.
On Mastodon, “I’ve never had any abuse or even people questioning climate change. I think we’ve gotten too used to it on Twitter … I’ve blocked a lot of birdsite accounts ( Twitter), he said.
Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and a regular target of abuse by climate change deniers, says he believes the rise of misinformation is “organized and orchestrated” by opponents of climate reforms.
“I’ve seen a big increase in trolls and bots. Many target tweets of mine for attack,” he said.
Mann’s 2021 book “The New Climate War” documents the actions of oil producers to sow climate denial on social media.
“Professional trolls manipulate the online environment with strategic posts that create conflict and division, leading to a feeding frenzy,” he told AFP.