Enjoy the Daily Sceptic while you can. A powerful network of climate change activists are working on “stamping out climate change misinformation once and for all”. And by “climate change misinformation” they don’t mean things like claiming that we have 18 months to save the planet. (See this piece by the BBC’s Environment Correspondent.) They mean anything that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy about climate change, however well-evidenced.
A reader received this email today, inviting him to attend a Censors’ Conference organised by the Institute of Government and Public Policy.
I wanted to get in touch with you this morning as we have received a small pot of funding for the Tackling Online Misinformation and Disinformation virtual conference which has allowed us to allocate X part-funded tickets to attend on January 18th. Would this be of interest to you or your colleagues?
View the event agenda and keynote speakers here.
Major U.K. brands including Virgin Media O2, Sky, British Gas, Ben & Jerry’s and SSE have signed an open letter calling on Cop26 decision-makers and technology platforms to take immediate action on stamping out climate change misinformation once and for all. Led by the Conscious Advertising Network, a voluntary coalition of organisations on a mission to prevent advertisers from inadvertently funding harmful content online, the letter says climate change has reached a “crisis point”. Recent research from Stop Funding Heat also found 113 ads on Facebook with messages like “climate change is a hoax” between January and October 2021, with an estimated spend of between £42,000 and £55,000.
This timely event will explore the emerging threat landscape of misinformation and disinformation online, and provide actionable insights into tackling this pressing issue.
Hear from Sterling Rippy, Strategic Lead Behavioural Insights, Public Health, London Borough of Hounslow as he discusses addressing vaccine misinformation by using the messenger principle and providing insight on how to best launch information campaigns.
* Discover effective strategies and software which can help to identify and counter disinformation online
* Discuss and debate the impact of the Online Harms Whitepaper with regards to digital disinformation
* Increasing media literacy as a defence against disinformation
* Assess the potential role of AI in the counter-disinformation framework
* Hear the ways in which Ofcom will balance upholding freedom of expression whilst providing a duty of care
* Improving the Social Media Landscape – dismantling incentivisation
We hope to see you at the event.
Sinister, or what?
Stop Press: The BBC’s new Specialist Disinformation Reporter Marianna Springs has written an article for BBC News headlined: “Covid denial to climate denial: How conspiracists are shifting focus.” Here is an extract:
According to researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a think tank that researches global disinformation trends, some anti-lockdown groups have become polluted by misleading posts about climate change being overplayed, or even a so-called “hoax” designed to control people.
“Increasingly, terminology around COVID-19 measures is being used to stoke fear and mobilise against climate action,” says the ISD’s Jennie King.
She says this isn’t really about climate as a policy issue.
“It’s the fact that these are really neat vectors to get themes like power, personal freedom, agency, citizen against state, loss of traditional lifestyles – to get all of those ideas to a much broader audience.”
When I saw Marianna citing the Institute for Strategic Dialogue as an authoritative source it rang a bell. I did a bit of digging and, sure enough, this very same organisation warned last year (“COVID-19 Disinformation Briefing No. 2“) that the far-Right online community had “mobilised” to “advance a range of… conspiracy theories relating to COVID-19”, one of which was… you guessed it… the claim that the virus was developed in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Here’s what the ISD said about that particularly “conspiracy theory”:
This theory is part of a wider right-wing conspiracy which some QAnon supporters have adopted. It claims that COVID-19 didn’t emerge from a food market in Wuhan but was rather engineered in a nearby laboratory and then released, either deliberately or accidentally. The main piece of evidence to support this claim is that China’s only Biosafety Level 4 lab (the maximum safety level used to deal with highly dangerous pathogens) is also located in Wuhan, and conservative media has repeatedly highlighted the connection, despite experts saying that there is absolutely no scientific evidence that the genome is man-made.
Absolutely no scientific evidence. Read Douglas Murray’s pouring scorn on this report in UnHerd.
Maybe the ISD would like to leaf through the new book by Matt Ridley and Alina Chen called Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19. Plenty of scientific evidence to support that hypothesis in there.
I’ve got a suggestion, Marianna. If you’re really interested in shadowy organisations spreading disinformation about COVID-19, why don’t you take a closer look at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue?