Flies in My Science, it All Started on Facebook

 

I love science, a love that started at about 5 years of age. My Facebook feed has lots of science pages and websites on it. I like to keep up with new developments in science, particularly astronomy and astrophysics. Among all the science pages, paid promotions under the heading “suggested for you” started to appear that were anything but science. They were climate change denial pages. I’ve argued online with climate change deniers off and on over the last few years and nothing on these pages was unfamiliar to me, I’d pretty much heard it all before but having it put on my Facebook feed on a daily basis was annoying in the same way a fly buzzing around a room is. At first I just ignored them but they became more and more frequent. It looked like a well organized and well funded reaction to the success of Greta Thunberg and when she arrived in the US, they accounted for about 5-10% of all the posts on my feed. So it was now a room filled with flies and I started to react. I reacted by writing one good paragraph about how climate change denial was politics, not science with a link to a real science website, and pasting it in every single one of the paid posts. That got a lot of troll comments and a surprising number of likes which indicated that I wasn’t the only one annoyed by these paid promotions of climate science denial. After a couple of days of doing this, I set up my own page, Climate Logic, to counter the climate change denial pages and point out the numerous logical flaws in their arguments. Some of what I had to say covered a bit more depth than the short paragraph the Facebook format is designed for so I also set up a small website for longer articles.

All of this relates to an interest in online disinformation and how it is spread. This is something that I’ve been studying for the last few years. Climate change denial is nothing more than a well funded disinformation campaign. Unlike most online disinformation, it is an overt public campaign that can be easily traced and studied. Like all disinformation, it is meant to confuse and obfuscate an issue and uses the classic techniques of echo chamber amplification of what is essentially a very weak and flawed argument and supplements that weak argument with fake news and conspiracy theories. It has married itself with conservative American political ideology and climate change denial is essentially a political posture. It is never found outside of politics in a purely scientific context because there is no serious scientific research that casts any doubt on human caused global warming.