The leftist U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate just launched a broadside attack against nine conservative digital outlets with its “Toxic Ten” report. The report aimed to silence entire outlets for writing stories that don’t follow the leftist climate policy narrative.
The hyperbolic report used data out of context to make it appear that users should care about 0.00012 percent of Facebook engagements in the last year. It also equated any discussion of eco-hypocrisy, data manipulation, George Soros or Marxist ideology in relation to climate policy to so-called “disinformation” that must be silenced.
Such pro-censorship behavior would allow no room for legitimate debate over real issues.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), partly funded by a group with ties to communist China, had huge success in peddling its previous pro-censorship list. It highlighted what CCDH considered the top sources of so-called “disinformation” about vaccines, dubbed the “Disinformation Dozen.” Then the organization turned its sights to online news media that occasionally cover the climate policy debate.
Report’s Methodology Biased, Misleading and Manipulative
CCDH’s report lacked transparency and used questionable data from a biased source. Further, the method used to find so-called “disinformation” articles was full of prejudices.
The group claimed to analyze 6,983 “climate denial articles” for its study, but declined to provide a specific list of articles included. That’s a huge problem with research transparency. It only included the query that it used to find the articles, which raised multiple concerns.
The query was constructed to look only for articles that mention keywords related to climate change. It then also required the article have one or more keywords from a long list that the authors believe would indicate that it was an article questioning climate change.
One of these was the word “realism,” as though anyone who wishes to debate what is and is not real about climate change is to be silenced. Another example are the words “hypocrite” or “hypocrisy.” Including those words shows that the authors consider any discussion of the excess use of carbon in private jets, large motorcades or enormous mansions by people pushing climate policy should be dismissed, demonetized and shut down.
It is also forbidden, apparently, to speak about any “lie” connected to the data behind climate change, or any “manipulation” of that data. News organizations must simply accept what they are told, no questions asked. Also unacceptable is any discussion of any relationships between climate change and “Marx” or “Marxism,” or liberal billionaire George “Soros,” who funds numerous leftist organizations.
Ideologies and/or funding behind the climate policy narrative are not to be questioned, according to the authors of this study. Though other such terms are used, the last one that raises concern is the phrase “climate lockdowns.” The left would likely prefer nothing more than for discussion of this phrase to be tossed on the trash heap of “conspiracy theory” history and soundly dismissed.
It’s not so simple, though, when The Guardian and Forbes both published the results of a study that claimed a global lockdown of the scope of the COVID-19 lockdowns would be needed every two years for the next decade in order to meet the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement.
CCDH does not provide a list of all of the posts evaluated for this study. It only provides a few examples in the report. Given the nature of the study, the logical conclusion is that most are linked posts. Linked posts generate a fraction of the engagement that other posts do.
CCDH is exaggerating the significance of the climate posts in the overall scope of what happens on Facebook in order to peddle its own agenda that is toxic to free speech and open policy debate. Even a leftist reporter explained that its data on engagement with conservative sites and stories is overblown. Both his piece and an article by Western Journal explained that engagement metrics are an indicator of how controversial a post is rather than how many users are actually reading and being influenced by it.
The group used NewsWhip to collect its data on engagements. NewsWhip is a questionable source at best, and is often used as a source for stories attacking conservatives. It has made a point to use its data to combat so-called “fake news,” even supporting Facebook’s biased left-wing fact-checkers.
NewsWhip also committed to providing its data either for free or at low-cost to certain organizations working against alleged “disinformation.” It is unclear whether CCDH was a beneficiary of the so-called “Data for Democracy” program in preparing its list.
Report Lacks Context for Numbers, But Contains Plenty of Hyperbole
CCDH cited large numbers for effect, but put in context, the numbers are not as alarming as the group tries to claim. The organization also relied on hyperbole in speaking about the climate policy debate, insinuating that immediate action is required. CCDH’s attempts to tie the climate policy debate to the COVID-19 policy debate fell completely flat.
CCDH trotted out what it portrayed as a very concerning number: 709,057 total interactions with the so-called “climate denial articles” between Oct. 2020 and Oct. 2021. But numbers without any context are useless.
To put that number into context, Facebook noted that it has an average of 2.91 billion monthly active users. An analysis of Facebook data by SMPerth, a social media marketing education service in Australia, showed that in a 30-day period, the typical Facebook user likes 11 posts, comments on 5 posts and shares one post, for a total of 17 average monthly engagements.
Performing some basic math with these numbers, we discovered that the 706,057 interactions over a one-year period amounted to approximately 0.00012 percent of the total Facebook interactions over that time, a rather insignificant number. Certainly not a number worth the effort to demonetize and deplatform ten online organizations over.
CCDH tried to convince its readers that those it is attacking are peddling “disinformation” when they use the words “climate alarmism.” It even used this phrase in the definition it concocted for “climate disinformation” and “climate denial,” which it listed in the appendix. The definition stated that people engage in so-called “disinformation” “typically by referring to climate science using phrases such as ‘climate alarmism’ or ‘climate fraud.’” However, in its report, it engaged in hyperbolic language that is difficult to call anything but alarmism.
The first words used in the report are, “We are at a climate tipping point.” That is followed up with phrases such as “It is the greatest crisis ever faced by our species.” This language is alarmist by definition. Americans have been warned about being at such a tipping point to the point that it has become tantamount to the story of the boy who cried wolf.
One example among many was an article from 2006 on a climate change-promoting website saying that we have only a 10-year window to act. That window closed five years ago, yet we are still not facing the climate catastrophe predicted if we failed to act. It is nonsensical to claim that calling out truly alarmist and hyperbolic language as such deserves to be demonetized and deplatformed — especially when using hyperbolic language to do it.
The report then goes on to compare so-called climate “disinformation” to “ vaccine and COVID-19 disinformation,” saying that both “obfuscate the truth by overwhelming us with claims and questions designed in bad faith to confuse the debate so action is delayed. ”The authors chose this comparison because of the organization’s previous success with its “Disinformation Dozen” report. However, COVID-19 is a bad comparison for the point the authors tried to make.
The virus data proved “experts” wrong time and time again. Some stories initially labeled “conspiracy theories” have borne out to in fact be supportable if not undeniably true, such as the Wuhan lab leak. Comparisons to the climate policy debate favor skeptics rather than the so-called “experts.”
The CCDH report also noted, “[t]he most potent tool of these self-serving parties is social media, a public forum where the most extreme, conspiratorial, and damaging content is rewarded with amplification.” The problem with this statement is that so many of the studies that purportedly prove that social media amplifies “extreme, conspiratorial, and damaging content” are easily debunked, and may have even used faulty data.
CCDH stated in its report that the websites highlighted “are the main producers of content that sows climate change skepticism” pretending there is “more extensive debate than there really is.” This statement relies on the old “97 percent consensus” myth that has been debunked. The fact that the report must dredge up a debunked statement to make its point discredits its own argument.