We’ve all been confronted by bots.
Not the cool ones that can do parkour and will make you economically redundant, but the messaging type you find on Twitter. Most of the time, the interactions are harmless. Co-opting social movements to drop teatox discount codes, things of that nature.
But there are also more dangerous Twitter bots: the climate change deniers. And there are lots of them.
According to a study by Brown University, which has not yet been published, around a quarter of all tweets about climate change are published by automated Twitter bots. No, they are not supporting carbon taxes and train travel. The study found 38% of bot tweets referenced “fake science” around climate change. Another 28% were about the petroleum giant Exxon.
Around 6.5 million tweets were analyzed shortly before and a month after Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. More than 25,000 bot tweets were sent during the days around the announcement.
According to The Guardian, the “study wasn’t able to identify any individuals or groups behind the battalion of Twitter bots.” On an related note, Google Russian troll farms.
Here’s why it matters: “The more denialist trolls are out there, the more likely people will think that there is a diversity of opinion and hence will weaken their support for climate science,” said Stephan Lewandowsky, an academic at the University of Bristol who co-authored the study.
Thomas Marlow, who led the study, said he and his colleagues “always kind of wondering why there’s persistent levels of denial about something that the science is more or less settled on.” Same.
And now you know.