TikTok, the new haven for fake weather news

The most popular platform among young people contains manipulated videos and fake news about climate change. It is the second most harmful after Twitter

“I already knew, a video I saw on TikTok explained it to me.” This has become a valid phrase among young people to support their position in any debate. It is not something necessarily negative, as long as they have learned to identify the reliability of the interlocutor and a critical spirit has been fostered. Without these tools, it is difficult to differentiate between truthful information and fake news. All this is something to take into account when we talk about the favorite social network for people under 18 years of age in the world and, in turn, the second least effort dedicated to combating climate hoaxes, only behind Twitter, according to a report by Avaaz, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace USA.

“Instagram and TikTok are plagued by fake influencers, scams, and misinformation,” warn those responsible for the study. From videos in which people claim that the snow that fell in Filomena was false, to a screenshot manipulated to make it appear that the CNN digital newspaper affirmed that climate change is seasonal.

While edited material also appears on other platforms like Facebook, pundits find it especially difficult to grasp where the weather hoaxes are coming from on TikTok, which encourages its 1.6 billion monthly active users to put their own stamp on content. of another person, and where reality, satire and lies are sometimes mixed with a dance video.In addition, the TikTok algorithm (in a similar way to YouTube) acts in such a way that if it detects your interest in a certain topic, the weather for example, it will begin to show more and more videos related to it. We do the test. After viewing three more or less rigorous contents, an influencer appears explaining that global warming is “false”. From there, a spiral of conspiracy videos and denialists is unleashed that defend all kinds of theories, from that the Earth is flat to that the Moon is an artificial construction.

Democracy organizations focus their efforts on asking companies to seek measures to limit deception. While this is happening (or not), there are entities that are already mobilizing to teach young people to be critical of what they consume. In Spain, the Association of Environmental Information Journalists (APIA) presented on Monday, at the National Environmental Congress (Conama), the table “How to teach secondary school students to detect hoaxes.” In it, they reported on the results of the “Tintin4Climate” project, co-financed by the Erasmus+ Program, which teaches students to detect lies about climate change.

“We are concerned about how young people are informed. They increasingly use social networks instead of turning to a newspaper, where the information is truthful, rigorous and contrasted. On TikTok there are videos that are apparently fabulous but that are “manufactured”, they are not real,” says María García de la Fuente, president of APIA and an environmental journalist for 20 years, who advocates “teaching young people to differentiate social networks.” of the information”.

In this sense, he points out that the media are companies that follow a code of ethics and legally established standards. They have a limit. This does not happen in the case of social platforms. «In our training we ask them not to see the information passively, but critically. Because there are no verifiers on social networks. They are not companies that were born to inform and, therefore, do not comply with those standards; They are quite unpunished.”Tintin4Climate has been developed in Spain (specifically, in Valencia), Latvia, Estonia and the Netherlands. Some 250 students between the ages of 13 and 17 have participated in this project. «The students are delighted and surprised because there are times when they had no idea that it was possible to lie on a subject related to Science. They didn’t think about it.”

Several congresses in one

The XVI edition of the National Environmental Congress (Conama 2022), the largest environmental meeting in the country, ended yesterday. The fair brought together thousands of professionals related to sustainability. Under the motto «Star in the transformation. It’s time», they wanted to send a message: the ecological transition must be accelerated, since we have witnessed this year – not only in Spain – a summer of record heat waves. The congress included this year Conama Innova, an environment for the presentation of innovative initiatives. In total, about 250 investigations and projects were exhibited at the fair.