Climate consultation swamped by internet trolls
The federal Liberals have launched more than 400 online public consultations since taking office a year ago, but the results may be swayed by the internet troll phenomenon.
The Government of Canada is taking public consultation into consideration when it comes to the environment, but what the public actually cares about may be buried under mountains of posts from online trolls.
The data used for these visualizations was obtained through Lutz Tischendorf, a data analyst based in Ottawa. Tischendorf downloaded all the consultation content from letstalkclimateaction.ca, a site which allows people to post and comment along certain themes: general ideas on addressing climate change, how and where to reduce emissions, putting a price on carbon, preparing for the impacts of climate change, and putting a price on carbon.
The Government of Canada consultation ran from April 22, 2016 to Sept. 27, 2016. Tischendorf downloaded the data on Sept. 16, 2016. For that reason, there is a slight discrepancy — of about 100 posts — between Tischendorf’s data and that of the Government of Canada. Here’s how all 13,742 posts break down:
Nearly half of the posts are taken up by the top 10 commenters, and 19 per cent of the total posts were made by just one person: Trevor Marr. There were 4,045 commenters in total.
The top 10 commenters posted, on average, 30 times a week — more than four times a day — over the five-and-a-half-month period.
Of the top 10 commenters, five skewed towards skepticism of the need for government action on climate change, and the other five tended more towards support for action. For example, one commenter, Trevor Marr wrote: “Apparently these Public Sessions are STACKED with paid Greenpeace and Eco Plants that take over the Conversation, mock and intimidate anyone standing up for Canada and Reality and who are just there to hypocritically spew eco-lies and not allow any reality based comments to be made without demonization and condemnation! Intimidation is their tactic and we should ALL be embarrassed by this Kangaroo Kourt!”
Another top commenter, Gil Gingras, said “Look … there is not one scientific organization in the world that denies man made climate change is real and we need to do something about it. This is the consensus of the scientific community. If you have evidence of just one saying differently then put it up. Till then I’m going with what science says on the matter and I’ll consider what you are saying is nonsense.” The following graph shows how the skeptics and supporters interacted throughout the consultation period.
The site used to collect the ideas provided 32 tags for commenters to label their posts.
The first graphic shows the top ten tags used in all posts and comments throughout the consultation. The other two graphs show the way tag use changes if either the top ten posters, or everyone but the top ten posters are selected. All posts and comments were used for all visualizations.
Comments accounted for roughly 73 per cent of the total posts.
Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that not everybody who submitted many comments to the climate change forum would be considered a ‘troll’.
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