“We only have 12 years”: YouTube and the IPCC report on global warming of 1.5ºC
This article contributes to the study of climate debates online by examining how the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) played out on YouTube following its release in October 2018. We examined features of 40 videos that ranked the highest in YouTube’s search engine over the course of four weeks after the publication of the report. Additionally, this study examines the shifting visibility of the videos, the nature of the channels that published them and the way in which they articulated the issue of climate change. We found that media activity around SR15 was animated by a mix of professional and user-led channels, with the former enjoying higher and more stable visibility in YouTube ranking. We identified four main recurrent themes: disaster and impacts, policy options and solutions, political and ideological struggles around climate change and contested science. The discussion of policy options and solutions was particularly prominent. Critiques of the SR15 report took different forms: as well as denialist videos which downplayed the severity of climate change, there were also several clips which criticized the report for underestimating the extent of warming or overestimating the feasibility of proposed policies.
My contribution to the project will focus on knowledge cultures that emerge online around climate science and policy. A particular focus area will be recent concerns about problematic information, junk news and misinformation online, and responses to these.
The field guide responds to an increasing demand for understanding the interplay between digital platforms, misleading information, propaganda and viral content practices, and their influence on politics and public life in democratic societies.
The first edition of The Data Journalism Handbook has been widely used and widely cited by students, practitioners and researchers alike, serving as both textbook and sourcebook for an emerging field. It has been translated into over 12 languages – including Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian – and is used for teaching at many leading universities, as well as teaching and training centres around the world.
Last week I gave a talk at the ‘Politics, Fake News and the Post-Truth Era’ symposium organised by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. I presented some of the work that myself and several other colleagues from the Public Data Lab, a network of researchers working to facilitate research, engagement and public debate around the future of the data society, have done on fake news this year.
I focused on two publications we produced this year:
A Field Guide to Fake News – a research report that uses digital sociology approaches to explore the production, circulation and responses to fake news online. This is done in the form of recipes which other journalists and researchers can follow and adapt to their own investigations. You can see here the outcomes of a collaboration we had with BuzzFeed News around one of the recipes to explore ad networks used by fake news sites.
Five Provocations about Fake News – a research article that draws on Science and Technology Studies (STS) to challenge some of the themes that underlie existing debates and research about fake news and proposes some provocations and analytical lenses to enrich the way we understand it.
Today saw the launch of A Field Guide to Fake News, a set of methodological recipes to explore the production, circulation and reception of fake news online. The field guide is the first project of the Public Data Lab, a new network of researchers working to facilitate research, engagement and public debate around the future of the data society. Claire Wardle of First Draft has been very supportive of the project from the very beginning and the field guide is produced in collaboration with First Draft.
The project was born out of an interest in “post-truth” politics and the rise of debates around fake news in relation to the US elections. The project is the result of a three-month collaboration between over 60 researchers, graduates and students at several universities in Europe through a series of “data sprints”. The data sprint is a short-form hands-on working format that convenes for a week participants from different backgrounds, including new media researchers, designers and issue experts, to collaborate around research projects. So far we’ve had sprints in Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen and Milan. We used this process to allow us to produce research that can respond in a timely way to a rapidly evolving phenomenon – as well as involving journalists, civil society groups, public institutions and others in the rapid co-production of research methods which speak to their interests and needs – while in the process challenging and enriching all of our different ways of seeing the issue.
Nieman Lab published today an article that Jonathan Gray, Tommaso Venturini and I wrote about fake news in the digital age. In this article we argue that fake news encapsulates key aspects of our digital environments and cultures and hence that it can be taken as an opportunity to learn not just about misinformation but, more importantly for us as new media researchers, about the digital arrangements that make such phenomena possible.
Today BuzzFeed News published an article inspired by one of the recipes in our upcoming A Field Guide to Fake News, to be launched at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia later this week. The article investigates how fake news publishers have adapted to being blacklisted from major ad networks last year. I contributed some research and analysis to compare the presence of trackers on a set of fake news sites in March 2017 and prior to November 2016 by using the Tracker Tracker tool maintained by the Digital Methods Initiative. It has been a pleasure to work with Craig Silverman and Lam Thuy Vo and hope I’ll get a chance to work with them again in the future.
Nick Diakopoulos from the University of Maryland gave an interesting talk on algorithmic accountability and computational journalism and Jonathan Gray and I gave a preview of the Public Data Lab’s A Field Guide to Fake News, to be launched next month at the International Journalism Festival in Italy.
The field guide is a collection of recipes to trace the production, circulation and responses to fake news online. Its production is supported by the First Draft Coalition. The aim is to suggest different ways of mapping and responding to fake news beyond identifying and fact-checking suspect claims – including “thicker” accounts of circulation as a way to develop a richer understanding of how fake news moves and mobilises people, more nuanced accounts of what fake news is, and responses which are better attuned to the phenomenon.