Climate denial, spam, and threats against climate scientists have all felt more prominent on Twitter since Elon Musk took over the company, The Guardian reports. After he took control of the company, Musk — the son of a Zambia emerald mine owner who grew up in Apartheid-era South Africa and whose Tesla was delisted from ESG stocks after it was revealed to be run “like a plantation” — shut down Twitter’s sustainability department, fired content management teams, and reinstated users banned for, among other things, instigating a violent insurrection to overthrow a presidential election.
While content referencing #ClimateScam and similar phrases increased before Musk’s takeover, according to an analysis by the Climate Action Against Disinformation coalition, it’s still significantly less popular than more accurate alternatives like #ClimateCrisis. Despite that, however, the hashtag has been, on and off over the past weeks, the first suggested result when a user searches for ‘climate,’ despite no obvious spike in the hashtag’s use that would justify such prominence.
Climate denial linked with other toxicity
The rise in climate denial on Twitter is consistent with the rise of anti-social issues and users, like the newly-reinstated Jordan Peterson, a virulent misogynist who, now part of the fracking-funded Daily Wire, is branching beyond his original brand of toxic masculinity to include climate denier talking points including on the benefits of excess CO2. “Peterson is a big one because his brand extends beyond the environment but now he’s doubling down on climate,” Jennie King, head of civic action at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The Guardian. “We’ve seen time and again these accounts that espouse climate denial and delay also spread misinformation on other topics, such as electoral fraud, racial politics or reproductive rights.”
The rise of cishet-white man climate deniers is concurrent with a decrease in other voices on Twitter as well. “As someone who followed lots of women scientists, and scientists of color, I’m noticing the absence of these treasured voices,” said Brown University climate scientist Kimm Cobb. “Maybe they’ve left Twitter, or maybe they’ve fallen silent, or maybe the network has deteriorated to the point that I’m just not seeing them being retweeted by mutuals. Twitter is a shadow of its former self when it comes to climate change.” (The Guardian)