On the eve of COP28, this report presents four case studies that provide a snapshot into the online world and what it tells us about the networks, narratives, and tactics used by these actors. It shows the complexity of an environment where professionalised lobbyists with billions of dollars at their disposal sit alongside keyboard contrarians chasing the limelight and state actors playing games of geopolitical chess. The potential responses are diverse and well within our grasp, but require us to remove the incentive structures for spreading false, misleading and divisive content. In the curated environments of social media, freedom of speech must be distinct from freedom of reach, and companies should optimise their products for safety over mere engagement. For that to happen, we must first recognise the threat of mis- and disinformation for what it is: a barrier to cohesion, to action, and to a liveable future for all.
Key findings from the report include:
- #ClimateScam, a hashtag frequently used to promote denialist and conspiratorial content, has become more prominent on X/Twitter since CAAD last studied the trend around COP27 in 2022.
- Over 150 ad exchanges are enabling the monetisation of climate mis- and disinformation on 15 key websites.
- Russian State media accounts – posting in English, French, German and Spanish – do not have consistent messaging on climate science, climate action or energy supply.
- From 1 January to 31 October 2023, just 13 fossil fuel companies published 2,562 ads on Facebook, according to Meta’s Ad Library.
While only a fraction of the bigger picture, the report reveals a range of vulnerabilities in our information environment which must be addressed if we hope to progress with climate action and have vital, evidence-based debates about the pace, scale and trade-offs of a Net Zero transition.