COVID conspiracy groups could step up to climate disinformation in 2022

Henry Jones wrote the following article in The Independent:

Covid-19 conspiratorial groups could pivot to push climate misinformation in 2022, experts have warned.

Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), told the PA news agency that coronavirus misinformation on topics such as vaccines and blockages may shift to focus on politics climate.

“’Green locks’ is a term that’s used in these conspiratorial communities… it’s a fusion of the worlds of Covid and the worlds of climate disinformation,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said conspiratorial groups would “define” climate policy as a “loss of civil liberties and freedoms”.

“If you think of the Covid protest movements – whether anti-mask, anti-lockdown or anti-vaccine – the branding and language that has been used by these kind of conspiratorial units have always existed. “, did he declare.

“It’s a civil liberties argument.

“The dialogue, the rhetoric and the climate talk is going to be built into this kind of civil liberties talk, I think that’s where you’re going to see a lot of these groups go.”

Dr Jonathan Bright, associate professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, agrees, adding that “there could be more activity” from climate conspiracy groups in 2022.

“I think people are going to think about the climate change misinformation a lot,” Bright told PA.

Experts were also concerned that conspiratorial groups and communities had swapped mainstream platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, for Telegram – a platform with relatively loose content guidelines.

“Telegram has… taken a very robust ‘we’re not interested’ approach to any pressure from the media to get it to moderate its content,” Dr Bright said.

Mr O’Connor added: “Telegram has become the platform of choice for far-right and far-right groups, for conspiracy communities and (and) for extremist communities in general. Facebook and YouTube… they have community guidelines, they apply them.

“Telegram largely takes a hands-off approach in this regard. They have rudimentary terms of service. That means basically they only remove threats of violence and child pornography and things like that.

“What this means is that Telegram is a safe space for conspiracy communities.”

Experts have also pointed out that online conspiracies are increasingly fueling real-world activity.

In February, footage was released of a man confronting England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty on the street, accusing him of lying about the number of coronavirus cases.

In October, protesters were filmed entering Colchester Hospital in Essex and serving staff with false legal papers accusing them of “crimes against humanity”.

And earlier in December, anti-vaxxer Piers Corbyn was arrested on suspicion of encouraging people to attack MPs’ offices.

“Online actions have consequences offline,” Mr. O’Connor said.

“What we see in relation to this idea …

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports is responsible for the government’s response to disinformation.

He announced a series of measures over the past year to tackle the problem, including funding training for libraries, youth workers and teachers to help develop media literacy among young people.

Minister of Technology and Digital Economy Chris Philp said: “Our mission is to make the online world a better and safer place and tackling disinformation is an essential part of that work.

“Our new online safety laws will create clear requirements for technology platforms to tackle disinformation and disinformation, and our media literacy strategy will equip people with the skills they need to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. in line.”

Telegram had not responded to a request for comment from the AP at the time of publication.

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