Tags: australia | wildfires | social media | sow discord | disinformation | campaign

Misinformation Campaign Targets Australia Wildfires

an officer stops a car on a roadway with australian wildfire raging high in the background
(Australian Broadcasting Corp/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 09 January 2020 04:19 PM

Australia's bushfire emergency has turned into a social media misinformation campaign, with claims "ecoterrorists" are behind some fires and bots and trolls blaming arson as the overwhelming cause of the country's disastrous bushfire season, per ABC News.

"The motivation underlying this often tends to not be changing people's opinions about the bushfire itself and how it's happening, but to sow discord and magnify already existing tensions in polarised political issues," Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Dr Timothy Graham told ABC.

Authorities on Thursday evacuated several coastal towns as hot, windy weather swept into southeastern Australia.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews warned of rising temperatures Friday and said spot fires could break out.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued an "extreme" fire danger forecast for the north of the state Friday.

"That's why we're again asking people in high-risk areas to leave ahead of time," Andrews said. "I can't stress this point enough. The fewer people we have there, the better for everyone."

Climate change deniers are blaming the wildfires on arson, with theories gaining traction online over the last week.

The New York Times on Thursday published a news analysis titled, "How Rupert Murdoch is Influencing Australia's Bushfire Debate," delving into how his News Corp. was adding to the misinformation.

"An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper's website," reads the article.

Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University, told the Times the actions were reckless and extremely harmful.

"It's insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place."

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With claims "ecoterrorists" are behind some fires and bots and trolls blaming arson as the overwhelming cause of the country's disastrous bushfire season, Australia's bushfire emergency has turned into a social media misinformation campaign, ABC News reported.
australia, wildfires, social media, sow discord, disinformation, campaign
293
2020-19-09
Thursday, 09 January 2020 04:19 PM
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