Wednesday October 12, 2022
Cristina López G. and Santiago LakatosRead Full Report
A Look Inside the Sprawling Online Network that Spreads Climate Misinformation to Spanish-Speaking Communities Around the World
Ahead of the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, reporters, researchers, and lawmakers have sought to understand the spread of false and misleading information among U.S. Spanish-speaking communities online. These efforts have focused on topics including immigration, COVID-19 vaccines, and electoral fraud, but relatively few have examined how the same dynamics impact Spanish-language conversations about climate change.
Green Latinos, with support from Friends of the Earth, commissioned Graphika to study how false and misleading narratives about climate change reach U.S.-based Spanish-speaking communities online. Our analysis aimed to understand how these narratives spread through the online ecosystem of Spanish-speaking Internet users, the groups and individuals who seed and disseminate them, and the tactics these actors employ.
Through this analysis, we identified a sprawling online network of users across Latin America and Spain that consistently amplify climate misinformation narratives in Spanish. While some of these accounts focus specifically on climate-related conversations, the majority promote ideologically right-wing narratives, some of which touch on climate change. Accordingly, the most influential accounts in this network are users with a libertarian or right-wing outlook who command a large, international Spanish-speaking audience across multiple social media platforms.
The actors in this network appear to act primarily as an amplifying force for climate misinformation, often translating content from English-language sources rather than originating the narratives themselves. Many of the narratives we identified also overlapped with existing online conversations unrelated to climate change, such as COVID-19 misinformation or conspiracy theories about a secret ruling organization of totalitarian, global elites.
This report is non-exhaustive and benefited from previous studies by the academic and open-source research communities. We hope our findings can contribute to a better-informed understanding of how false and misleading information about climate change and other topics spread among Spanish-speaking communities online.
Below is a summary of our key findings:
- Our Twitter-based network analysis did not identify a coherent network of U.S.-based accounts propagating false and misleading climate narratives in Spanish. Instead, the map revealed an international network of distinct geographical communities across Latin America and Spain. Some of the accounts that comprise these communities focus on climate change conversations, but the majority focus more generally on ideologically right-wing narratives.
- Actors spreading Spanish-language climate misinformation in this network can be sorted into two categories: those with a libertarian or right-wing outlook that command a large, international audience across multiple social media platforms and those that focus specifically on climate misinformation but have smaller followings.
- Both groups of actors use a range of tactics, techniques, and procedures to spread climate misinformation online. These include translating material from English-language sources, coordinated content sharing, recruiting like-minded users to grow their networks, leveraging coded language to avoid content moderation, and funneling users to alternative platforms.
- The network spreads a variety of climate misinformation narratives. These narratives often blend into one another and overlap with conversations unrelated to climate change, including COVID-19 misinformation and preexisting conspiracy theories. Prominent examples range from claims that climate change is insignificant or a hoax to assertions that “global elites” engineered the climate crisis to consolidate government power and reap financial rewards.