A new tool to fight climate change denial on Twitter

The environmental group Protect Our Winters and Sid Lee have released a new Twitter tool to help stem the spread of content that denies climate change.

Dubbed #FactBack, the tool is designed to bury tweets from the most influential deniers and politicians with scientific facts.

Examples in the promotional video posted Monday include U.S. President Donald Trump, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier—who was recently granted permission to take part in the next Federal election leaders debate. “Go Fact Yourself” is one of the lines the campaign is using to draw attention to the new tool.

POW was created in 2007 by a group of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts who’ve experienced climate change first-hand, through reduced snow levels.

As Canadians, winter is part of who we are and the sports we love. Losing it would be like losing a part of our identity,” said David Erb, executive director of POW Canada, in a release announcing the new tool.

To illustrate the scope of the problem of bad climate information, POW cites research from Oxford University—which found that just 3% of the content regarding climate change that appears on Twitter comes from an expert scientific source. Similarly, the University of California found that climate deniers actually get 49% more visibility in the media and online compared to scientists.

By signing up at the Fact Avalanche site, people can be notified via email or SMS whenever an influential figure tweets something that denies the science of climate change. They can then reply to that tweet with a fact about climate change chosen from a database of facts provided by the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Natural Resources Canada. The tool can also be added to Slack, enabling entire companies to participate.

On Sunday Bernier tweeted that the “1930s were hotter” and “climate alarmists cherry-pick dates to make it look like everything is getting worse.” That triggered a #FactBack response. Users were given tweet reply options like: “Not real? Here’s a quote from the #IPCC 5th report: ‘It is certain that global mean surface temperature has increased since the late 19th century.’ #FactBack.”

“Climate deniers and fossil fuel lobbies use Twitter to spread skepticism and misinformation, so we thought it would be a great idea to flip things around and use the same tool for good,“ said Kristian Manchester, executive creative director and partner at Sid Lee.

“We hope giving people the facts and making sure misinformation isn’t part of the conversation anymore will empower Canadians to finally come together as one and become climate leaders for the rest of the world,” said Erb. “And we think the Canadian election is the perfect moment to do that.”

David Brown