The seed of doubt is planted, and now it will grow. As the fires rage on, disinformation campaigns (led and accommodated by Murdoch mafia’s News Corp) are raging on too.
Over the last few days, news outlets and social media started posting false information regarding the arsonists behind the bushfires. The disinformation campaign claims that 200 people have been arrested in relation to starting bushfires, a sly and dirty weapon used to poison the humble seed of clarity planted in so many minds.
Tilt reality, shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change. We’ve seen it in the US, we’ve seen it in the UK, and we’re seeing it right now in Oz.
First things first, let’s do some fact checking.
Distortion of facts and figures: Did 200 people really contribute to starting the fires?
A statement from NSW police revealed that since Nov 8, 2019, 183 people have been charged with 205 bushfire related incidents…. but only 24 have been charged with deliberately setting fires AKA ARSON.
This large figure includes misdemeanours like discarding cigarettes, failing to comply with a total fire ban and even a man in Wallacla, Sydney, who was making himself a nice cuppa.
The figure also includes arrests BEFORE the fires began.
According to Murdoch mafia and friends, 43 Victorian arsonists were included in the total figure. A Victorian police spokeswoman stubbed this claim out, saying this was the correct figure for the year ENDING September 2019, meaning it had no relation.
A Queensland police spokesman told a similar story about the 101 QLD arsonists. This figure is indicative of ‘police enforcement actions’ which include charging, restorative justice AND cautioning. While these figures are plumped up, Queensland police still state that 1068 fires have been lit deliberately over the fire season.
Arson is an issue in Australia and it should be a part of the conversation, but it’s certainly not the whole story. Even if arsonists were responsible for lighting fires, climate change has primed the conditions. This disinformation campaign is being used to actively undermine the connection between climate change and this fire season..
Here’s where it gets a little weirder.
There is currently a co-ordinated social media disinformation campaign using BOTS to spread the lies. A Queensland University of Technology study (my alumni are doing cool things) found bot Twitter accounts are being used to exaggerate these claims of arson.
Timothy Graham, QUT lecturer, examined the hashtag #arsonemergency on Twitter. He combed through 1,340 tweets. 1203 were unique published by 315 accounts. Graham says many of these bots previously posted support for Donald Trump
The Queensland University of Technology senior lecturer on social network analysis Dr Timothy Graham examined content published on the #arsonemergency hashtag on Twitter , assessing 1,340 tweets, 1,203 of which were unique, published by 315 accounts. Hmmm. Using a bot detection tool, he found there were a large number of suspicious accounts posting to #arsonemergency , #australiafire and #bushfireaustralia.
He said: “…you see that these are individuals who are hyper-partisan ideologues, behaving in a way that is not reflective of the average Twitter user.”
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
Call it out.
If your friend posts it on Instagram or your local news outlet covers, let them know you don’t appreciate the agenda of this disinformation campaign. This is not news so you should not be hearing about it from your chosen source of media. If you do, I implore you to switch coverage immediately.
Don’t engage with bots about this campaign
It’s not something you need to prove, and having this conversation with a bot won’t help. Instead, talk about it to the people around you, face-to-face.
From those back at home, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this campaign. Have your loved ones been coaxed into consuming this? Has it changed minds? Are your friends talking about it?
I’ll be covering the Greens disinformation campaign very soon. In the meantime, STAY LOUD!