The Guardian reports that bots are spreading disinformation online about Australia bushfires.
The Queensland University of Technology senior lecturer on social network analysis Dr Timothy Graham examined content published on the #arsonemergency hashtag on Twitter, assessing 1,340 tweets, 1,203 of which were unique, published by 315 accounts.
Using a Twitter bot detection tool, he assessed a random sample for bot-like characteristics.
His preliminary analysis found there is likely a “current disinformation campaign” on Twitter’s #arsonemergency hashtag due to the “suspiciously high number of bot-like and troll-like accounts”.
He similarly found a large number of suspicious accounts posting on the #australiafire and #bushfireaustralia hashtags.
“Australia suddenly appears to be getting swamped by mis/disinformation as a result of this environmental catastrophe, and we are suffering the consequences in terms of hyped up polarisation and an increased difficulty and inability for citizens to discern truth,” Graham told the Guardian.
The New York Times notes that much of the disinformation is coming from the Prince of Lies, Rupert Murdoch.
[Murdoch's] standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has ... repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp., the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.
... a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing [environmentalists] would allow it to happen.
The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so.
You might imagine that this disinformation is affecting opinion only in Australia -- but it's here as well, and it's quite likely that your right-wing uncle believes it.
Quoting the Australian story cited by the Times, Breitbart published a post yesterday titled "Report: Arson Epidemic, Not Climate Change, Behind Australia’s Bushfires." Another Breitbart post is called "Australian Police Arrest 180 Arsonists for Bushfires. Someone Tell Russell Crowe..."
In fact, as Snopes notes, 183 people have been arrested in New South Wales for fire-related offenses, but only 24 were arrested for deliberately setting fires; "another '53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban,' and an additional '47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.'" The Times story quotes Dr. Timothy Graham:
“Maybe 3 to 5 percent of fires could be attributed to arson, that’s what scientists tell us — nevertheless, media outlets, especially those that tend to be partisan, jump on that,” Dr. Graham said.
In America, the disinformation isn't just appearing at Breitbart. A story at Glenn Beck's Blaze bears the headline "'Australia Is on Fire' Because of 'Climate Change,' Said the Left. Turns Out It Was Two Dozen Arsonists." Alex Jones associate Paul Joseph Watson writes, "Nearly 200 People Arrested Across Australia For Deliberately Starting Bushfires - Yet Media & Celebrities Continue to Blame 'Climate Change.'" The Christian Broadcasting Network's CBN News tells us,
Concerns are mounting in Australia that three of the devastating wildfires in the states of New South Wales and Victoria could soon merge, creating an epic "mega-blaze". But that's not even the most shocking concern facing Aussies at the moment.
Now there's news that the wildfires may have been caused intentionally. The Daily Mail reports that more than 180 people have been arrested on fire-related charges.
Australia has just arrested a number of arsonists who are accused of setting the wildfires that are ravaging the country. Could they have anything to do with the fact that jihadis have identified setting fires as a tool of jihad? ...
“Teens Charged with Lighting Grass Fire Face Court,” Daily Telegraph, January 7, 2020:
Western Sydney teen Fadi Zraika — one of the two teens accused of lighting a grass fire at a Guildford park while bushfires ravaged NSW — laughed outside court today after appearing on multiple charges.
Police allege Fadi and Abraham Zreika, both 18, set off fireworks that sparked a grass fire at Bright Park, Guildford, on December 22.
Police were called to the park about 2.40pm after reports of several loud explosions and saw fireworks exploding and several small grassfires...
Wow, a teenager setting off fireworks. Must be an evil plot to spread fire, jihad, and liberal climate ideas.
This is bad. And every right-winger you know believes it.
Published with permission of No More Mr. Nice Blog