The Federal government promised to use the results of the climate consultation process undertaken this past summer in formulating climate policy. But what about the flawed data found on the Let’s Talk Climate Action website?
We at 350 Ottawa have analyzed the ideas and comments posted on the Let’s Talk Climate Action website using sophisticated software. We conclude that the data reflects a biased view of the actual content of the posts, and should not be used in establishing climate policy. There are two major problems: trolls and tags.
Trolls bias the climate change conversation
We downloaded the ideas and comments posted at the Let’s Talk Climate Action website between April 20 and September 16, 2016. This content was analyzed using search and natural language processing software.
Source: Climate Consultation Swamped by Internet Trolls, Rupert Nuttle and Spencer Van Dyke.
Strikingly, a small group of 10 authors/commenters account for nearly half of all 13,742 posts (the right half of the chart above). The most active of these internet “trolls,” a climate change skeptic, posted up to several hundred comments per day, over 2,500 posts in total (pink segment).
The blue segment represents the 7,089 posts — about 52 percent — of the remaining 4,045 authors.
We conclude that any analysis of the posts must begin by eliminating the bias created by the trolls. The troll bias was removed by analyzing only the first idea or comment posted by each person. We then scanned these posts and compared the topics to the Tags listed on the web site.
Tags bias the climate change conversation
The web site offered authors 32 Tags (topics) from which they could select the Tags that best matched the topics of their posts. Authors were not permitted to create their own Tags. In analyzing the content contained in the posts, we discovered that there were several popular topics that were not included in the list of 32 Tags.
For example, three topics of concern to many people are PIPELINES, FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES, and COAL POWER. These were each discussed in 5-7% of the posts, but none of them was represented in the Tags provided. For comparison, ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE, one of the top-5 selected Tags, was actually only present in fewer than 2% of the posts.
In other words, the Tags shown on the web site, and the numbers of posts associated with each Tag, do not represent the actual content of the posts.
In summary, if the Government plans to use the results of the climate consultation to enact climate policy, as promised, we recommend the following steps:
- Eliminate the bias created by the “trolls” before analyzing the results, and
- Analyze the actual contents of the posts themselves rather than the Tags, which misrepresent the topics discussed in the posts.
Climate policy formulation will shape the way Canadians will tackle climate change for generations to come. We must get this right by using the right data.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Activist and a blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa). Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.
Goes quite a ways toward proving what we’ve been suspecting for years … that the climate change denying trolls are paid to do what they do (or are retired and creepily have nothing better to do with their time).
Another fun thing to analyze (if one creepily had nothing better to do with one’s time) would be to see how many of the trolls’ comments are repeats — simply cut and pasted memes. Certainly online, I can recognize a known climate change denying troll by what they’ve said. (Mind you, the same could be said of me, I guess … I like to talk about how making the switch to a zero-carbon economy will be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful for everyone.)
Anyway, thanks for sharing what 350 Ottawa found out about the government’s consultation process. Let’s hope Ottawa takes heed.
I have sent the link to your article to Min Catherine McKenna. Thank YOU for all that you do.
Sharon – thanks for doing that. I’ve tweeted it to her as well but it’s a good idea to do a direct send.
Are you going to the CCL conference in November?
Government and corporate paid trolls to influence social media are not imaginary. The truth is further distorted because the government, political parties, and political candidates all pay people to post on social media networks to create false impressions and discourage activism. This is especially disturbing because with the decline of journalism many rely more and more on social media. See references 241, 327, 376, 403, 459-466 of this article: http://www.newprogs.org/the_powerless_press
Interesting article. I have often wondered why the Trolls don’t join in the rational discussion. Nothing rational phases them. They just continue to respond with irrational (not to mention, irritating), red herring arguments that confuse and distract from anything meaningful. And if they look beaten in the rational argument, they toss out some withering offensive statement and disappear like ‘a man made of smoke,’ to continue their peddling of lies elsewhere. I am tired of them.
I know it’s so annoying to not only have to fight for prompt climate action but do so against a current of denial and do-no-gooders like the trolls who tried to contaminate the data base of the climate consultation site.
It would be interesting to run the text from the 7000+ non-troll comments through a word cloud app like here: https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/
And compare most comment words with the tag set that was presented to commenters.
Thank you Ray for that word cloud app. I’ll send it to our analyst to see if it can be helpful. I’m pretty sure that the software that was used did in fact do what you’re suggesting. Thanks again for following BoomerWarrior.
What makes you think that there will BE “generations to come”? Dr. David Wasdell wrote last year (http://www.apollo-gaia.org/Harsh%20Realities.pdf, p. 16): “There are about 487 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent already in the atmosphere. The implicit temperature increase from that is now about 6.2°C when it has all worked through to equilibrium.”
If Dr. Wasdell is correct in asserting that it’s INEVITABLE that the global mean temperature will increase by AT LEAST 6° C above the pre-industrial level, it follows that “our goose is cooked” as a species!
Thank you for your comments ACT I.
What is the significance of the term ACT I?