Climate, Clicks, Capitalism, and Conspiracists
by Michael Khoo, Friends of the Earth advisor and UpShift Strategies co-founder, and Melissa Ryan, CARD Strategies CEO and Chief Strategist
Big Tech is finally coming for QAnon, but it still doesn’t look good. Twitter, TikTok and Facebook took steps to curb the spread of the far-right QAnon conspiracy, which claims Donald Trump is waging war against the deep state and an international Satanist sex-trafficking pedophile ring.
Unfortunately, these actions are too little, too late. QAnon, where researchers have noted an accelerated increase in membership throughout the pandemic, has become a mega-conspiracy, absorbing multiple political and cultural online conversations in the process. As part of our work studying climate denial conversations online, we’ve observed climate deniers shift their focus over several months from climate change to QAnon greatest hits, such as COVID-19 conspiracies and anti-Black Lives Matter content and disinformation.
Haters Gonna Hate
A coalition of environmental groups hired analysts at the online network analysis firm Graphika to track climate denial conversations on Twitter for the past six months and found a definable group of people responsible for spreading most of this disinformation. On average, they observed that the Climate Denial group was about four times “louder” (number of tweets relative to the group size) than the Climate Science group. Many of these people and organizations have been spouting their anti-science propaganda for years and are now just using these platforms to avoid the fact-checking that the media sometimes provides.
In order to surface and monitor an online community of climate denial accounts, Graphika built a network map (see below) based on accounts engaging with a set of climate-focused hashtags on Twitter and their followership of one another. The map is multipolar: A large Pro-Climate Science and politically Left-Leaning group of accounts is on the left, and on the right is an insular Climate Denial and Right-Leaning group. The Climate Denial group is a small group of accounts achieving undue influence over American climate policies. In our climate map and overall political map…