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A conundrum: our continued presence on Facebook

Posted on 17 July 2020 by BaerbelW , doug_bostrom

You’re bound to have seen the recent news about how Facebook keeps favoring climate science denial by misguided decisions like creating fact-checking exemptions for climate deniers or restricting which content actual climate scientists can boost on their pages. This is of course outrageous behavior. Reactions to these articles when we shared them on our own Facebook page make it clear that many of our Facebook followers and readers share this sentiment.

FB-CollageA sampling of reports about Facebook’s handling of science denial provided by E&E News (here), Heated (here), Media Matters (here), Newsweek (here) and Science Magazine (here)

Our Conundrum

And this leads “nicely” to the conundrum mentioned in this blog post’s title: are we aiding and abetting Facebook’s continued disregard of fact-checks - and thereby letting misinformation run wild - by staying on the platform? This question is especially relevant for our team as our main raison d’être is fighting misinformation about human-caused climate change and Facebook is actively inhibiting ours and others’ means to do just that. We’ve been having discussions about this within our team on and off but things seem to be coming to a head sooner rather than later if these recent articles are any indication. So, in an effort to share what we’ve been mulling around for a while, we decided to publish this blog post. Please feel free to use the comments to provide feedback to help us make a decision down the line.

FB-Post-Reactions

Leave Facebook?

At first sight, the logical reaction should be to just close our page and leave Facebook for good, removing Skeptical Science as an attractant to Facebook users - we do have 188K+ followers there right now. The sole mechanism likely to swerve Facebook’s behavior is loss of eyeballs, loss of logins. Engaged users are after all the company’s central product line and hence significant loss of users is the most direct path to taming Facebook. Should enough organizations depart Facebook, the collective effect will begin to tell. But - as is often the case - things are not quite that easy. What would happen if pages and groups like ours just deleted their presence on Facebook? More likely than not, we’d leave the field to the mis- and disinformers and many Facebook users would then be basically at their “mercy”.

In the sense of being unable to leave the field open for others to take over, we’re somewhat in the same trap as the rest of Facebook’s users. There’s a form of “investment” at stake, something to lose by leaving. For private users it’s social circles. For pages like ours, it’s increased reach and providing factual information for people looking for it.

An Alternative - MeWe

Are there even any working alternatives to Facebook for what we do and where we could move to? In fact there are. Arguably the most significant is MeWe, similar to Facebook but with important differences beneficial to users. MeWe supports pages, groups and personal connections like Facebook does, but with all the levers of control in your hands. MeWe’s promise is “Your private life is #Not4Sale - No Ads. No Spyware. No BS.” MeWe’s defining claim is that their network is built on “Trust, Control and Love.” There’s more information on MeWe’s About page, their bill of rights and the FAQs. We already have a presence on MeWe but with about 600 followers after about a year and half of operations there, as of this writing it’s obviously not yet a viable move-to option compared to the 188K+ followers we have on Facebook.

Is MeWe perfect? No, nothing’s perfect. Is MeWe better than Facebook? Per respective terms of service and experience of users, undeniably the answer is “yes.” As with all sorts of choices in life, choosing “better” is better, more sensible. And MeWe’s “Bill of rights” does inspire confidence (we think):

MeWe-BoR

A key difference between MeWe and other social media systems is the absence of AI driving content presented to users. With "engagement" leading to more exposure of advertisements, Facebook and other ad-driven social media systems have an urgent need to keep the attention of users. An effective way to do this is to identify user beliefs and preferences and then to concentrate content to fit a given user's beliefs and preferences. Unfortunately, this leads to "bubble" effects; users may develop a false perception of the society they live in and indeed reality itself.  A person with an inclination to doubt the facts of climate change will end up being presented with material confirming misperceptions of climate science, ending up with the mistaken impression that climate change is a subject of debate.  MeWe doesn't apply AI technology on its users,  reducing the harmful effects of "group think".

Path forward

For the time being, we’ll stick with Facebook but will also keep on building our presence on MeWe at the same time. For the latter we’ll need your help: the more of you who follow us on MeWe (and perhaps even stop following us on Facebook at the same time), the quicker we’ll reach a kind of break-even point when it starts making sense to make MeWe our major social media presence and to eventually leave Facebook altogether. This of course implies some faith in a broader movement of people making choices about morality and ethics.

SkS on MeWe

One thing is important to remember: this doesn’t have to be a “cold turkey” binary choice. With so many of our family and friends using Facebook, it’s not plausible or reasonable to expect sudden, complete abandonment of Facebook despite the company’s increasingly alienating behavior with respect to social norms and good. But we can easily divide our attention a little bit, and inexorably as that happens others will follow. 

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Comments

Comments 1 to 41:

  1. Facebook is somewhat like the United Nations ~ which is far from perfect, but is The Only Game In Town.   Withdrawing from the UN is an option with little benefit.

    Facebook's AI "engagement algorithm" produces a toxic effect on society/democracy.  And, as you know, it is very open to manipulation by outside interests.   We can hope that governments & major corporations (of the benign type) will gradually push Facebook in a healthier direction.

    Just like we can hope that the UN will improve.  [But how to do it?]

    Yet the climate-science deniers aren't having it all their own way.  They claim persecution [as always, of course!]   Several days ago, the marvellous blogsite WUWT  posted an article saying that they were being deplatformed  by "our hosting provider" per "a big increase in hosting costs".   And so, after >2 years, they are moving back to Wordpress.  Attached comments were filled with sentiments about "the suppressing of scientific dissent" ; and Conspiracy by the extensive Climate Alarmist institutions ; the "politically biased cancel culture" ; and "cultural Marxism" ; and suchlike.

    WUWT  will have some temporary disruption of service, and of commenters' postings.  And Mr Watts is keeping an extra-tight moderation in place, until the changeover is complete.  (It might be amusing, to see the tenor of comments there, once the Usual Suspects are free to let rip  about this persecution.)

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  2. For many reasons governments don't have the ability to save us from FB. And it would be far from ideal to allow governments to do this work in any case. 

    The levers of power here are entirely at FB user fingertips. Not lifting a finger, not logging in— that's how FB will be tamed. 

    As we explain, this isn't an all-or-nothing affair. A modicum of self-discipline on the part of individuals and a modicum of faith that others have the same modest capacity can steer the company. 

    FB is driven by and feeds on obsessively scrutinized statistics. Inaction will be noticed. 

    The analogy with the UN is dubious. One organization is charged with the mission of improving the human condition. The other is charged with the mission of collecting dollars for private benefit. One has a track record of doing good works albeit imperfectly, the other a track record littered with concertedly intentional depraved behavior, with imperfection being a key requirement of successful operation.

    This job of remedying Facebook requires literally no effort and no cost. But we can't do it? We resign ourselves to fatalism? What a remarkable surrender, and how depressing to think of the same attitude applied to other urgent problems.

    If we can't deal with repairing or replacing an entirely optional feature of our lives that has not even been in existence for two decades, we surely won't sort out other more pressing issues, such as climate change. If we choose not to vote on Facebook by not lifting a finger, what effort will we really apply to bigger, harder jobs? 

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  3. To put it all less charitably, as a non-user of Facebook who has had a lot of conversations with Facebook users about the societal effects of Facebook and the choice implied by supporting its agenda as a user, I hear the same elusive reasoning employed by alcoholics when they're confronted with the negative effects they're producing. 

    If you're a Facebook user and you're making excuses for Facebook, think harder. 

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  4. In another sense, Facebook does what its advertisers (and people that buy data from them)  want - they pay the bills, and as long as they are willing to pay, Facebook will continue on the same path.

    As a user (which does not include me), moving away from Facebook will only succeed if the advertisers/buyers move away. Users are just bums in the seats (or eyes on the screen).

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  5. "...moving away from Facebook will only succeed if the advertisers/buyers move away. Users are just bums in the seats (or eyes on the screen)."

    Users are why advertisers are on Facebook.

    One comes before the other. Users are not "bums in seats," they're workers providing eyeball services to Facebook, which sellls those services to advertisers.

    Let's keep our order straight here.

    So: fewer users, fewer dollars flowing to Facebook. 

    A drop in revenue is the only thing Facebook will attend to. 

    This is all on users. 

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  6. Governments can only regulate to a certain extent and facebook are bad at self regulation. So yes in the end it might comes down to users. I ended my account ages ago for numerous reasons.

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  7. Doug: I don't disagree that it's users that drive the advertisers. I guess they are more than bums in the seats in the sense that they also provide free content that brings in more bums in the seats. In normal media, they used to pay reporters to do that.

    The advertisers want eyes on the ads, which happens when the bums in the seats stare at the screens.

    And what the bums in the seats read and type gives Facebook more data to sell.

    Fewer bums, less crap typed for others to read, fewer bums, etc. is the sequence that will end it.

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  8. I have never been a Facebook member, and see no reason to ever become one for all the many reasons a reasonable person might list. Nevertheless, I can make a distinction between my personal decision not to join as a data collecdtion point that Facebook can extract identity profiles on me to sell to whomever wants to buy it, vs. having a Skeptical Science presence on Facebook that can be a reliable, vetted source of objective information.

    I can even envision that the traffic to your Facebook site might convince the data analytics folks that there might be some profitability in providing a decent platform for science on Facebook. 

    This does not preclude a presence on alternative sites nor does it preclude criticizing Facebook whenever it tilts the playing surface as it does whenever it gives a pass to vetted information sources.

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  9. Just like Wilddouglas, as a non-user of Facebook, my personal leverage is zero in this matter.  Yes, I can (and do, FWIW) recommend less FB usage to friends & acqaintances.   My share portfolio does not include (AFAIK) companies that advertise on FB ~ so no room for influence via shareholder meetings.   And my political vote . . . well, governments are somewhat fearful of the Press & social media ~ so they might/may/could take action or exert pressure on FB, only when there is a sufficient scandal over FB-mediated influence on elections.  But I suspect it will take much more stuff hitting the fan, before all major parties feel it is in their interest to take real action.

    My inexpert opinion is not worth much ~ I only give it as some feedback for consideration by the gubernators of SkS.   I suspect that a FB "drop-out" by SkS would be lost in the statistical noise at FB.   So I am hoping there are other  ways of skinning a cat.

    Are there disadvantages in SkS having a foot on more than one platform? Could it be that a "partial defection" by user groups (such as SkS) would produce a bigger signal at FB Central, than would simple complete withdrawals?   ( It seems almost inconceivable that FB would not intensely scrutinize their rival "David-size" platforms.)

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  10. The point I'd like to make here has already been made in this article but I'm going to rephrase it a bit. . . 

    FB--at this point--is just a platform users go to that simply reinforces existing opinions and viewpoints. I mean, every fourth (or fifth) post in anyones timeline IS an ad. My newsfeed includes several positive posts/advertisement messages specifically as they pertain to the issue of anthropogenic global warming. Sure, it probably could disillusion the way I think about the world around me if I wasn't conscious or wanted it to. I mean, in that it could make me feel like the world was on my side. (It isn't).

    Nevertheless, I've been wanting a reason to deactivate my account and I don't see a problem with supporting SkS's efforts to, for lack of a better term, boycott FB for the reasons listed above. I recieve SkS updates via e-mail and prefer it that way, anyway. So, I'm not necessarily sure I'd go and make a MeWe account so I could re-follow ya'll. And it seems like that's the idea here (unfollow on FB, follow on MeWe). Correct me if I'm wrong?

    And then just to really make sure my entire two cents is going to this here jukebox, I think that the comment made refering to FB users as, "bums in seats," is a little whack. I get it, though. It's hard not to :"sh*t talk" on people when you fundamentally disagree with how they're spending their time/investments. 

    What are facebook users?

    People. 

    What's blue and white and data mines?

    The most popular social media website. 

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  11. First impressions from article plus comments of readers ahead of me:

    I do worry as Doug puts it that for SkS to withdraw from FB just leaves the creepy crawlies to keep confusing the hell out of people re climate science and fossil fuelled climate change.

    On the other hand the disinformation would continue whether SkS is on FB or not. But now I also recall Doug's advice ... to stop being an active user of FB.

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  12. Haliburton:

    Don't read too much into the phrase "bums in seats". It derives from the olden days when information or entertainment was spread by filling a room full of people and talking to them/showing a movie/playing a concert, etc.

    The "bum" is just a person's posterior. Empty seats dont pay the bills (when people paid for the privilege of sitting there). A 60-thousand seat football stadium does not generate much revennue when it is empty - hence the need to make sure you have "bums" in those seats.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bums_in_seats

    (Apparently, it is somewhat of a regional expression. I am Canadian.)

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  13. Have you ever considered having a strong Skeptical Science presence on WT.Social? It is the type of environment amenable to the content and procedures espoused on Skeptical Science itself; and from there you coud snipe at climate change deniers' platforms of choice.

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  14. Everyone opining on this matter would do well to read the comments being posted about this article on the SkS Facebook page. Here's a typical response:

    Marnie Parker
    I share articles from or endorsed by Skeptical Science all the time on FB. Some my friends are being educated. Even people who know Climate Change is a big problem still aren't taking it seriously enough. But now several of my friends have liked your FB page directly. Don't discount that we, your readers and supporters, are spreading your information further than you ever could by yourself.

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  15. Thanks for the tip, Vasco. I'm going to take a look at that. We're spread thinly so part of our problem of course is staffing new beachheads.

    A weird feature of this Facebook problem: miles of column inches given over to kvetching about Facebook while failing to mention that there are alternatives, and that using alternatives is the path out of the problem.

    The conversation needs to move forward from "it's bad, somebody save us!" Most good luck is made, not found, and here we can make our own better luck with little effort. 

    And sure, FB has some postives. Neonicotinoids have some positives,  seem completely wonderful if one is sufficiently myopic. But is destroying the food chain a worthwhile payoff? 

    Here's a neonicotinoid-style side-effect of Facebook, a description of the experience journalists encountered when investigating the ad purchase process at FB::

    At one point in the process, for example, the automated system asked the researchers if they wished to “INCLUDE people who match at least ONE of the following: German Schutzstaffel, history of ‘why Jews ruin the world’, how to burn Jews, Jew hater”. “Your potential audience selection is great!” it told the researchers. “Potential audience size: 108,000 people.” 

    Worth it? 

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  16. Another comment posted on the SkS Facebook page in response to this article...

    Stephen Keeler
    Keep publishing. It’s important that your work is read (and shared). Otherwise you are handing victory to those publishing misinformation.

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  17. Lest anybody wonder and worry about it, we're not going to decamp from Facebook, any more than people are going to change or modify their consumption habits of material things such as fossil fuels because they know it's the right choice. 

    But it's important that we keep in mind the trades that we're making in being there. 

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  18. I don't use facebook for three reasons:

    1) It's one of the worst user interfaces on the web (and that's saying something!)

    2) I have no need to "communicate" with people I don't want to, nor to be "liked" (is that the word?) by them

    3) The fewer sites that harvest my information the better.

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  19. Reasons to Stay or Leave: 4 Reasons for each group. Rating each 1 to 5 (1 = stay, 5= leave)

    Reasons for staying on FB:

     1) No One Polices False Information: FB does not self-control (police) false information. Neither does most other media organizations (Fox News), and neither does MeWe. There will still be climate denier groups and individuals all over MeWe, peddling false information within their echo groups, once it gets a full spectrum of users. So, this is a neutral point: Rating = 3.

     2) Flow of False Information Likely Only Slightly Less on MeWe: Many climate deniers are not FB users. They get the misinformation from many other sources. Even if everyone moved to MeWe, the flow of climate denial into MeWe will be the same (coming from other media sources). (Certainly the self-amplification of this misinformation within FB will be stunted - see first two points in next section - but I believe this internal amplification is a smaller accelerant of the flow of misinformation on FB compared to the incoming flow of misinformation from other media sources.) So, this is a neutral point: Rating = 3. ... (Although, since the flow of misinformation may be less (if even slightly less), then one could argue this should be a 4 favoring leaving.) 

     3) Loss of Readership & Loss of Penetrating the Internet w/ Good, Truthful Material: FB users like the "one stop shopping" aspect of FB's news feed. Not having to click around on different sites, just scroll down to see media material from groups & individuals of interest is very fast and convenient. But, there are many other social media (SM) platforms that users do click on, so adding MeWe to the list is only a partial inconvenience. But, until MeWe use builds, the readership of SkS on SM would plummet in the meantime if fully moving to FB. So, this is not a show stopper for leaving, but it is a major reason to stay (for now): Rating = 1.

     4) Buy out of MeWe or future change of MeWe: There is no guarantee that MeWe won't succumb to future money interest. So, loss of readership and other headaches could be all for naught in a few years from now. But, this is only speculation: Rating = 3.

    Reasons for leaving FB

     1) No Profile Specific Ordering of News Feed: FB users can order their newsfeed based on time too (just like MeWe); but they have to click on this feature with every refresh; while, with MeWe, this is built-in. Odds are that only <5% of FB users methodically do this. Therefore, this reduces the "outrage trigger potential" of MeWe compared to FB. This is one reason why the internal self-amplification of false information would be less on MeWe vs FB. Rating = 5.

    2) No Profile Specific Ads: FB users can block ads using adblockers (very effective) and hiding the rest (a minor inconvenience). But, only 30% of internet users use adblockers. So, 70% of FB users are getting profile specific ads which potentially feed their "outrage & false information addiction". So, this is another reason why the internal self-amplification of outrage and false information would be less on MeWe vs FB. Rating = 4. (or maybe a 5)

     3) Make a Moral Point about the Social Health Fallout caused by FB: Most media publishers get their paycheck off of peddling "outrage" in order to draw readership so to sell ads. Some publishers rely on this to the extreme (Info Wars, Fox News, CNN, FB); others much less so or not at all (AP News, MeWe). Social media (vs older media forms) speeds up the flow of this "outrage quotient" by 1) being constant in time and 2) enabling the viewers themselves to contribute to the circulation of outrage, like a virus. This can take this flow & buildup of "outrage" to socially unhealthy levels of polarization and radicalization which can even overpower the old social stabilizing institutions that, in the past, would keep up with dampening past lower levels of outrage (keeping it in check). So, today's intense flow of "outrage" caused by social media groups, like FB which feeds off of it for its paycheck and purposely is designed to amplify it, is a serious social health issue. However, MeWe doesn't block incoming "outrage" content; but it does thwart the internal self-amplification of this outrage, via #1 and #2 in the above 'Leaving' reasons. By leaving, this is taking a stand against this kind of socially unhealthy pathology against FB's purposeful amplification of outrage for the sake of making a buck. Rating = 5.

    4) Make a Moral Point about FB not controlling Climate Denialism: As a climate pro-science site, it would only seem fitting & in keeping with its mission that SkS should make a moral stand against FB's nefarious climate denial inaction. Rating = 5.


    Average Rating = between 3.625 to 3.875


    Conclusions & Recommendations:
    Based on this, I would work to leave FB but do so with as much noise as you can. I would try to team up with as many climate action advocate groups as you can (scientists, climate groups, institutions, schools, companies, churches, etc). Then, I would write a mass article, signed by all, to be published in a couple major papers (Guardian, Forbes) so to announce your plans to leave FB on Date = XYZ, unless FB meets specified demands in writing by that date (and spell out your demands in detail). The points above in #4 and #5 in the 'Leaving' section should be made clear (like a social condemnation against FB and how they are nefariously polarizing the world for the sake of a buck). Then, follow thru (in mass) and leave FB if they refuse to meet the demands in full by that date. Give instructions to your readership on how to set up MeWe accounts with plenty of "overlapping" time to ease the transition.

    I have accounts w/ both FB and MeWe; although I am not a frequent MeWe user yet.

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  20. There a two major typo errors with the above text (and a number of poorly worded, sloppy errors). The major ones need to be pointed out:

    #3 in the Reasons to Stay section: "... readership of SkS on SM would plummet in the meantime if fully leaving moving to FB."

    Conclusion section: "The points above in #3 #4 and #5 in the 'Leaving' section should be made clear ..."

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  21. Sauerj: "I would work to leave FB but do so with as much noise as you can."

    An excellent point. Ideally FB would be tamed, broken to the will of users. The company needs feedback in order to do that. 

    The equivocation of MeWe and Facebook regarding bogus information being delivered spontaneously to users is incorrect. MeWe doesn't push content: users have to seek it out. This is a key difference and according to the (excellent) method applied by SauerJ will change the results of the analysis quite radically. 

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  22. Failure to communicate is usually in the hands of the person talking. 

    Here we've clearly failed to communicate MW's refusal to use pushed content and AI driving that push, the differences iin outcomes that unpack from that choice. 

    That and the lack of advertisements, the impossibility of microtargeted ads, how that unpacks. 

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  23. Another comment posted on the SkS Facebook page in response to this article...

    Julian Skidmore
    My fb friends see quite a lot of climate posts thanks to SkepticalScience, because I actively share them. Their opportunity to have misinformation redressed will be more limited if you leave the platform.

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  24. Re: #19:

    There are some workarounds that address some of your points, namely the browser plug-in, Facebook Purity. You can customise it to not show a whole stack of different post-types (including ads) from appearing in newsfeed. It has improved my experience. FB of course hate it but every time they find a way of disabling the thing the guy behind it comes up with a fix.

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  25. Perhaps I have a simple take on social media and Facebook involvement specifically.   Mine take in the context of activism and influencing ... You need to make noise, you need supporters to make noise with you, most importantly, you need to build trust in your messaging and communicate with people who do not agree with you.   

    I use Facebook and other social media plateforms to connecct with people who need to hear the messages.   Clearly, is activists leave social media we will be leaving the systems open to only those who have messages of denial, missinformation, and manipulation, i.e., propaganda of those who deny the problems or greenwash the problems.

    I repost Skeptical Science content not because I need to content, but because many of the people who are connected to my profile do need to be nudged in the Skeptical Science direction. 

    There are too few good scientific resources already on Facebook.   We need more ... We need more people reposting to counter the huge volume of misinfomation that is out there ...

    Yes, Facebook needs reforming ... but just like the streets that we march down with placards ... We need those streets ... We need the public arenas to communicate.   Those who would like to silence us would be more than happy to have Facebook for their own.

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  26. My take in a bit more detail and having read the comments: There appear to be a couple of main issues with facebook. 1)Micro targetting of ads and information that can reinforce climate denialism, and 2) facebooks poor fact checking, because facebook claim climate denialism articles are not news articles, they are opinion so they dont need fact checking.

    Facebook show no signs of changing this behaviour, despite these issues being raised on various websites. Im assuming people have also lobbied facebook directly. The government hasn't intervened very much, presumably because its afraid of being seen to censor free speech and excessively interfering in how facebook do business in relation to micro targetting.

    Fact checking opinion articles or dealing with complaints about them would be very time consuming for governments. Even if the public lobbied governments, it looks to me like they might be reluctant to act. Governmnets usually only get tough if its a question of safety, blatantly inaccurate news articles, and so on. I guess we could argue lies about climate change threaten the safety of humanity. Would that have potential, or is it too tenuous?

    So things might only change if users leave facebook and thus start hurting their bottom line. However the problem is if only a few users leave it wont make a difference. You would need quite a big exodus. People like facebook, and the issues we see as a problem might not bother enough people, or they might not be smart enough to understand them. So the risk is a few leave, but 99% stay and so what would we have achieved?

    I did leave facebook some time ago for a combination of reasons. 

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  27. You may consider this post is political. My advice to Skeptical Science to continue doing what you are doing until November 5th. Then have another think abot it. Why?

    Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook. What drives Zuckerberg is the search for revenue. Political influence is one of the tools in his toolbox, as it is with all big business wherever it is. So he leans towards Tump & the Republicans.

    But Bloomberg News (& others) have commented on how Wall Street is looking more & more at Biden & the Democrats as the polls move in that direction.

    If Biden wins, and especially if the Democrats get the Senate as well, then watch big business switch horses pdq. I believe so will Facebook. Perhaps it has started already (see comment on complaints by WUWT) ?

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  28. There is another major typo blunder in my post above, which totally screws up the sentence's meaning:
    #2 in the Reasons to Stay section: "Certainly the self-amplification of this misinformation within MeWe FB will be stunted ..."

    Also: I think gerontocrat (@27) made an extremely astute point. Since the US election is only a short 3-1/2 months away, it makes total logical sense, before the election, to follow a path of evaluating and talking this over (including talking with other climate action groups), but to hold off any action until after the election.

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  29. A recent "Living on Earth" radio show talked about some climate action groups dropping their advertising on FB. I can only wonder if there are many, many other groups, scientist leaders and businesses that SkS could team up with, who are disgusted with FB abetting climate denialism and conspiracies, and targeting users via fear and outrage manipulation (boggeyman politics), resulting in unhealthy polarization of society, all for the sake of a buck. 
    http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=20-P13-00029&segmentID=1

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] URL breaking page formatting shortened.

  30. I joined MeWe the other day, after reading this post.  I am following SkS there and joined a group called Climate Change.
     However, today I came across this article, which give me pause.

    Inside MeWe, Where Anti-Vaxxers and Conspiracy Theorists Thrive

    https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/mewe-anti-vaxxers-conspiracy-theorists-822746/

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  31. sailrick @30, thanks for that useful information. It is tough to know where to go, because it looks to me like Facebooks advertising algorithms essentially targets people with certain types of articles that fits their past history, so amplifies climate denialism, while Me We dont do that. But Facebook do come down quite hard on far right groups and other assorted totally crazy people, while Me We allow anyone on their website.

    Perhaps MeWe are better overall than facebook, because at least it doesnt manipulate what information people recieve, but given they only have a couple of million users, thats going to mean skepticalscience.com would not be reaching many people. Tough choice.

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  32. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Everybody’s entitled to their opinion - but not their own facts': The spread of climate denial on Facebook.

    'The arguments are that people can't trust scientists, models, climate data. It's all about building doubt and undermining public trust in climate science'

    by Louise Boyle, The Independent (UK). July 24, 2020

    John Cook is quoted extensively in this article.

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  33. Thanks, JH @32 , for the recommendation.  Is there an easy hoop or two to jump through, to read the Boyle article, but without "registering" ?

    A bit off-topic, but somewhat related, are the hoops that WUWT  has been jumping through in order to change platform.  (Mentioned in post #1).   Latest I've noticed, is that WUWT  says it has abandoned the attempt and has reversed course.  It seems there were too many technical difficulties in porting the extensive past records.

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  34. Eclectic: I'm not aware of any.

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  35. Eclectic @33 - I just checked and the article is accessible without logging in and/or subscribing for me in Germany and using Firefox. I just see a banner at the bottom of the page asking "Want a completely ad-free experience?" Do you perhaps have an ad-blocker active during browsing?

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  36. Thank you Baerbel and John ~  I have now caught up with that Boyle article on independent.co.uk  (a good article, but gloomy).   Moving to another computer solved the problem of access.   ( I was reading on an old Chromebook, which seems to allow loads of ads to come through : but obviously not enough to satisfy the independent.co.uk setup. )

    Gloomy article.  But let's hope the coming events of Nov/Dec/January will help Facebook gain a bit of backbone for 2021 onwards.

    The toxic mentality of Deniers is quite a study.  You may have noticed from some of my older posts, that I am an observer of WUWT  blogsite, especially the comments sections.  The comments sections are a fascinating study of the extremist  fringe of humanity.  A good number of the commenters are quite intelligent ~  on topics other than climate science and social politics.  But on those two topics, they show a "marvellous" mixture of intellectual insanity & moral uncharitableness.  (Not that you aren't well aware of their mental flaws!)

    I am seeking an accessible crevice in their armor.  But unsuccessfully so far.  The armor keeps re-configuring itself, like a kaleidoscope (just as John Cook et alia know too well).   Another analogy is : like trying to reason with an out-of-control paranoid schizophrenic . . . a task without much chance of success, unless some extraordinary "key" can be discovered.

    Outvoting them seems the main path forward.

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  37. Eclectic @36, I know the types of climate denialist you speak of. I argued with one for a year, a libertarian leaning chap with a chemistry degree.

    They invariably seem to have a very strong ideologically based world view that is very pro small government, and very suspicious of governments especially 'big' government, and thus very intolerant of anything with a socialist leaning flavour, anything like carbon taxes or climate subsidies, and they loathe the science of climate change probbaly because it leads inevitably to these sorts of things.

    You need to understand these most extreeme climate denialists tend to be libertarians, and you cannot reason with these people, because they have a sort of mental affliction that they will take to the grave. They are at the outher extreme of the bell curve. You will never find a chink in their armour. Their views are primal to the extent they will never tolerate climate science and the inevitable governmnet involvement in mitigation even if climate change destroys them as a result. To them the only thing that matter is having very small governmnet and this is so strong its like the need to breathe or eat food. They are far more rigid than conservatives.

    Your commentary may however convince or be useful to other people reading who are a bit more normal, so if you have a spare moment its still possibly useful. And sure it can be fun and stimulating arguing with people even if they are as rigid as stone. Just dont expect to move that stone.

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  38. Nigelj , your observations are quite correct about that type of denialist (at WUWT ).

    Yes, there are a few exceptions there ~  e.g. crackpots with little or no political extremism.  But the vast majority are as you say . . . wingnuts and/or conspiracy theorists, who lean toward government-free libertarianism (or at least, just enough government to supply policing & border guards in order to suppress "sub-races" and foreigners).   I would go further, and say there is also a nasty streak of callous selfishness or uncharitableness ~  though you will rightly observe such is simply the obverse side of the Libertarian coin.

    But you have partly mistaken my meaning, Nigelj.   I have not posted at WUWT  ~ I merely observe the pathology of the diseased minds there.  Quite marvellous and fascinating.   And one day, I may identify a vulnerable chink in their mental armor (admittedly a very, very slim chance).   Until that day, I see no hope of influencing the denizens of WUWT.   Yet I take my hat off to the tiny number of real scientists [especially the excellent Nick Stokes] who occasionally post comments there.

    Other forums, less extreme, may indeed have lurkers or participants who can be swayed/mollified by reasoned argument.  But that doesn't apply in the vitriolic echochamber which is WUWT.

    Facebook itself, is territory that is worth contesting.

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  39. Eclectic @38, yes it's certainly interesting observing them. Dont let it curdle your brain.

    I suggest have a look over at realclimate.org at the latest article: "Somebody Read the comments." Its very relevant. The research paper is a long and somewhat tedious read, but it has this interesting snippet near the end:

    "Substantially more double interacts were identified in the user comments of RealClimate than Watts Up With That. This finding suggests that there is more deliberation in user threads of RealClimate as users engage with more alternative viewpoints (Collins & Nerlich, 2015). In contrast, Watts Up With That functions more as an echo chamber, as users tend to agree with comments of previous users. We need to be cautious with comparing both data sets in terms of the deployed framing strategies, as the RealClimate data set included more double interacts. Yet the fact that users of Watts Up With That always deployed issue framing and were less inclined to use identity and process framing with negative denotations supports our argument: Watts Up With That functions more as an echo chamber in which users feel safe and perceive comments less as a threat to their cultural identities. Overall, these observations are consistent with literature on one hand showing that user comments offer potential for deliberation and mobilization around climate change (Collins & Nerlich, 2015; Cooper et al., 2012; Graham & Wright, 2015; Uldam & Askanius, 2007), and on the other pointing to concerns about echo chamber effects creating niches of denial and demonstrations of incivility (Collins & Nerlich, 2015; Walter et al., 2018)."

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  40. Thank you, Nigelj.  From time to time I do see your comments at Realclimate ( I am an irregular visitor to the site).

    Yes, the comments sections at WUWT  are much more for venting, than for actual discussion.   WUWT puts out several new articles per day ~ and the comments after each article are mostly repetitious venting, a churning of scores-to-hundreds of posts by the usual suspects.  Often with scant connection to the article itself.   Yet there are subtle variations in the exhibited Motivated Reasoning . . . and this I find interesting (maybe my brain is already curdled or yoghurtified? )    And always, but always, there are immediate & childish attacks on anyone making a rational well-informed comment there (something which a few brave souls - e.g. Nick Stokes - do venture to make, occasionally.)

    Facebook itself is a different kettle of fish, on my limited experience of it.   I like to think that WUWT  is perhaps useful in satisfying the anti-social aggressiveness of its denizens ~  so that they are less likely to go out and commit gun massacres . . . but really I'm not sure on that.

    Facebook seems a mixture of good and bad, for society.  Probably more bad than good ~  but its existence is now a "given" , and we must now join the dance and make the best of it we can.

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  41. Eclectic @40, I dont visit WUWT very much these days. It appears to be the hard core denialati. The truly faithful and driven. I get enough observing of denalists on our local daily media.

    I suspect some of the denialati are also paid to post commentary by various conservative leaning lobby and business groups.Their job is purely to cast doubt on climate science, and they do this the simplest way they can while making a dollar: They more or less copy and paste their list of nonsense repeating old memes and myths, in other words propaganda. No point in wasting time acually addressing the article or having difficult discussions!

    I agree about facebook. I certainly don't see it going away, not short to medium term anyway but it might get smaller. I dont use it these days because Im just not a hugely socially connecting sort of person in that sort of way, and prefer email, but I can see its great for people wanting to connect a lot in a group sort of way and to track down old school friends. These perfectly well intended functions have sort of been highjacked to turn it into a fake news site. Not sure what the solution is, but society is starting to loose patience with hate speech and fake news, so pressure will come on facebook from all quarters, and it may be other websites like Mewe gain traction. Old saying: The only constant is change.

    Just on the denialists on WUWT. I sometimes wonder if they are inherently psychologically weak with all the motivated reasoning and other biases, or their underlying ideology and world view drives the motivated reasoning, or whether certain libertarian world views naturally coincide with a tendency towards motivated reasoning.

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