Climate Strike Observations

There is a global #ClimateStrike planned for September 20th through the 27th. This is a series of peaceful protests regarding government inaction on climate change. Some are announced in advance, there will certainly be popup activities as things get rolling, and there are multiple groups involved. Several of us have done work for various environmental and clean energy groups, and we are well aware of corporate PR campaigns and their automated backing.

We began tracking Extinction Rebellion’s efforts in early July of 2019. We only found 112 accounts then, but an update this week has revealed at least 397 that are active. We have an index of 214,000 tweets and mentions for those original 112.

Our systems have spent the last many hours grinding on follower profiles for several different constituencies:

  • Extinction Rebellion’s 397 accounts
  • 350 & Bill McKibben
  • DeSmogBlog
  • 17 Deniers profiled on DeSmogBlog

The denier accounts are from a study done about five years ago, so it is in no way a complete representation. We will probably have a look at the players in Lewandowsky et. al.’s Recursive Fury study, too.

The creation date curve for followers is a clue to legitimacy; bots became a rising force in 2015, and older accounts that have been “bleached” also participate in such activities. Bill McKibben’s followers show no sign of such activity.

And the @350 account seems to have a similar audience, except for this intriguing spike of accounts created in 2011. We’ll dig deeper into that later.

The followers of the Deniers are only 50% collected at this point, but the difference is stark. Given that there is one very large account in the mix this curve may balance out a bit once things are done, but the ramp up in 2015 and the sharp drop in mid-2018 are signs of automated accounts that we see for almost all legislators in English speaking countries.

The Canadian 350 contingent is tiny, just 8,000 members, but the creation date curve parallels the global account.

Our observation plan is still coming together, but for the moment we are collecting:

  • Climate Strike hashtags & keywords
  • Deniers & their mentions
  • Extinction Rebellion’s 397 accounts & mentions
  • Extinction Rebellion specific hashtags & keywords

This study is a natural progression from recent findings by @RVAwonk and @JessBots which appeared in How Maxime Bernier hijacked Canada’s #ClimateChange discussion.