Meteorologist Calls out Media's Effort Against 'Misinformation' for Lacking Transparency

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

When they use the very tactics they complain about, that has to be declared as misinformation.

First, a piece of backstory to set the table. We at this site, and those conservative outlets like ours, are well aware that social media holds our work to a differing standard. Being aware of this when we report on stories concerning COVID or the climate, we go in knowing our work will automatically be audited, so we have to take extra care that everything is referenced and corroborated to ensure accuracy. And even then, a fully accurate piece can be flagged as ‘’misinformation,’, because the provable facts divert from an approved narrative.

Meanwhile, the verifiers and fact-checkers who cite problems do not themselves have to hew as closely to those strict standards of factual presentation. This reality has been addressed by meteorologist and PhD recipient, Ryan Maue. In a recent Twitter thread, he points out a glaring violation of the misinformation process where platforms and news outlets combat messaging with the very type of tactic they deride. In essence, they claim to combat misinformation by using misinformation.

Maue notes a recent article by USA Today that announced there is still a swelling of climate misinformation on social media, despite claimed efforts by the largest platforms to crack down on the dissemination of content that is deemed inaccurate and/or dangerous. The first indication there is a flawed approach with this article is that it is said that misinformation is what has stalled many efforts towards effective change in climate policy, a point that is supported by Michael Mann. As a reminder, Mann is one of the infamous names in the climate movement who has delivered blatantly inaccurate climate information.

The heart of this piece is a study conducted by a group called Advance Democracy (AD), which is said to have found significant amounts of inaccurate information distributed on social media. This is a trend that was recorded last summer and has continued throughout the year.

Advance Democracy says the number of posts with climate change denial terms such as “climate fraud,” “climate change hoax,” or “climate cult” increased after the climate topic was introduced and averaged 679 a day in the second half of 2021. Climate change denial spiked during the U.N. COP 26 climate summit, Advance Democracy found.

The USA Today article has been picked up by a number of other outlets. Maue notes the same writer, Jessica Guynn, wrote a similar piece over six months prior, giving almost all the same pronouncements but in reference to the year 2020, and again citing Advance Democracy findings. The information provided to the paper stated the various issues detected on social media, but here is where things get revealing — or, more accurately, get obfuscated. Guynn says the report from the outfit was shared exclusively, but nowhere is there a link or direction to the actual report.

Maue shows that other articles from Guynn share this storyline and features findings by AD. He also found this appears to be the case on the Advance Democracy website. Despite many of the same type of declarations, the outfit looks to be very coy with their data, their studies, and their methodology.

Consider what is taking place now. Over the course of years, a solitary outfit is making very bold claims, which carry implied import and are said to be the cause of action. Their report is picked up across the media spectrum and appears to influence the decisions of social media platforms. Yet at no point is the actual study provided? There may, in fact, be an actual study, but why after years is the actual report not given out? Why are the metrics and methods of study not provided?

When this is an environment where particular news sites have to be extremely diligent in reporting and fact delivery – and can still be flagged as misinformation – it is remarkably revealing that on the other side, there is no such insistence on veracity. It appears that simply making claims is enough, as long as those claims support the approved narrative.