Fake News Bots Account for the Bulk of Social Media Climate Denial

After the 2016 election, it became evident that bots were responsible for the spread of vast misinformation, or fake news. While there’s currently AI being deployed to fight this dangerous element of social media, bots are still incredibly effective at spreading false narratives, especially when it comes to climate change.

As The Guardian reported, “the social media conversation over the climate crisis is being reshaped by an army of automated Twitter bots, with a new analysis finding that a quarter of all tweets about climate on an average day are produced by bots.”

The Study: As the BBC explained, the paper detailing the finding has not yet been published by Brown University but was first reported by The Guardian.

  • The research team analyzed 6.5 million tweets from the period surrounding President Donald Trump’s June 2017 announcement that he was removing the United States from the Paris climate accord.
  • The finding showed 25% of tweets on climate change were likely posted by bots. Most of those tweets centered on denials of global warming or rejections of climate science.

Red Flags: As the Guardian explained in their recent article, Thomas Marlow, a PhD candidate at Brown who led the study, said the research came about as he and his colleagues are “always kind of wondering why there’s persistent levels of denial about something that the science is more or less settled on”. The draft study seen by The Guardian stated that, “These findings suggest a substantial impact of mechanized bots in amplifying denialist messages about climate change, including support for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement.”

The Worst Offenders: While Brown wasn’t able to identify the individuals or groups behind the bot accounts they did flag the handles of some of the worst offenders like, @sh_irredeemable and @petefrt.

Why This Matters: Climate denying bots help amplify President Trump’s dangerous message of climate denial. These bots are inaccurately swaying the climate conversation online to make climate denial seem like a far more mainstream idea than it actually is, which helps this current administration. As Ed Maibach, of the Center for Climate Communication at George Mason University, recently said, “Even though we don’t know who they are, or their exact motives, it seems self-evident that Trump thrives on the positive reinforcement he receives from these bots and their makers.”

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