Climate change poses a threat to our planet. Despite being studied and validated by experts, it’s still being challenged by some individuals, groups, and organizations, using misleading data and statistics to convince others that climate change is not real.
Critical thinking requires a healthy dose of skepticism. However, when taken to the extreme, it could easily lead to denying facts and pushing information that isn’t scientifically true. As for climate change, denialism may lead to social unrest and widespread misinformation.
What is Climate Change Denialism?
Climate change misinformation most commonly comes in the form of fake news with an intent to deceive or mislead readers. In some parts of the internet, there are personal accounts and blogs that post content containing conspiracy theories and false statistics, such as outright claims that climate change is a hoax or that environmentalism is a new world order, to entice social unrest among the public.
Other than bad actors, reports from reputable, credible sources also show that corporate decision-makers are likely to be major peddlers of climate change disinformation to push their business agendas forward. Industry trade groups and associations promote climate change misleading information, while corporate lobbyists—found to have the financial backing and support of major fossil fuel companies and other large-scale industries—use disinformation to sway legislators and regulators. Some disinformation strategies include falsified science with the aim of diverting people’s attention away from environmentally harmful actions and processes.
Furthermore, climate disinformation tactics has been integrated into marketing strategies to persuade the public to continue using fossil fuels.
In an effort to be more involved in greener initiatives, corporations from different industries are coming together to beat climate change denialism one day at a time. Major social media players like Twitter, Meta, and TikTok are rolling out strategies to lessen misinformation on their sites.
- Game-changing AI system
Companies are using machine learning and algorithms to detect patterns in text and media. The AI would scan for online content that is linked to fake news websites, looking for similar words, phrases, and keywords. Because of the widespread disinformation and misinformation, many companies are pushing for the use of AI to help fact-checkers combat fake news.
- Specialized moderators
Sophisticated algorithms and AI are only part and parcel of the solution, as human ingenuity and judgment remain integral in tackling disinformation online. Misinformation rapidly evolves because of cultural nuances, and these could possibly go undetected if data is not up-to-date. AIs are trained to work with humans, and algorithms can only keep up with the information they process from moderators.
- Massive community-led efforts
Major social media platforms utilize the removal of accounts reported for spamming, a feature that allows volunteers to mark content that is factually incorrect. Through collaborative efforts by users, false information can be prevented from spreading.
Using misinformation is not new. People have used it for centuries to manipulate public opinion and create confusion. The difference now is that the internet and social media have made it easier, and the consequences are more severe.
Misinformation and disinformation brings about a negative impact affecting individuals and the community at large:
- Heightened anxiety
Fake news often plays on the emotions of its reader. For instance, fear-mongering is a tactic that makes the audience more anxious, clouding their judgment and impartiality. Pushing conspiracy theories about climate change revolving around biochemical weapons is an example that harbors negative emotions when reading.
- Social and cultural unrest
Divided by misleading news, some individuals may resort to attacking the opposing side. Name-calling, slurs, and derogatory remarks will almost always be present when it comes to online arguments. Oftentimes, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, coordinated disinformation campaigns target and harm Black, Latinx, Native American, Asian, and Middle Eastern communities, intending to cause mistrust, distraction, and division among communities.
- Discrediting of experts
The effects of climate change are apparent, but there is still skepticism and denialism around the subject to the extent that scientists have to deal with public scrutiny. With many believing that the data and studies they publish are hoaxes, scientists and experts have developed ways to deal with non-believers, including hosting online video conferences, making public appearances, and dismantling misinformed posters online using their personal accounts.
With climate change misinformation circulating in social media faster than ever before, online platforms are introducing measures to ensure that the public is exposed to legitimate news and articles. Misleading data, if not taken care of properly, can lead to uncertainty and lack of trust from the public, and potentially affect society as a whole.
That leaves it up to Us to do a better job in distinguishing between online fact and fiction, and how to deliver the truth to the people. We do have certain tools at our disposal, which may be all we have for a while.
Change Starts with Us
Companies must help address the problem of climate change misinformation. Tackling this problem is about protecting everyone’s right to access content backed with truthful, credible, and updated data. That being said, companies should play a meaningful role in society and take into account the consequences of their actions.
But who is really speaking the truth? This is the question of many individuals. The puzzled public continues to consume contradicting information sources and the growing amount of bogus news.
TaskUs prides itself on having a holistic and comprehensive approach to content moderation. We work across a broad spectrum of policy areas and content types such as User Generated Content moderation, forensic platform investigation of suspicious behavior, ensuring brand integrity, and addressing coordinated harmful behavior.
We also have a dedicated Policy Research Lab, which monitors the evolution of harmful narratives by analyzing multi-modal content for emerging patterns, generating timely, actionable insights based on our nuanced understanding of these evolving patterns.
We take it upon ourselves to make online communities a safe and correctly-informed space. Together, we will make a difference in the fight against climate change misinformation.