Climate Change Denial: The Toxic Ten

Climate change denial, as described by a recent report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, “obfuscates the truth by overwhelming us with claims and questions designed in bad faith to confuse the debate so action is delayed.” Furthermore, the Center for Countering Digital Hate has calculated that the majority of climate denial material being spread online originates from a fairly small group of online content producers. Their report, The Toxic Ten: How Ten Fringe Publishers Fuel 69% of Digital Climate Change Denial, identifies the following ten websites as the main contributors to online climate denial:

  1. Breitbart, the disinformation site once run by Steve Bannon
  2. Western Journal, whose founder claimed President Obama is Muslim
  3. Newsmax, a key promoter of election fraud conspiracies
  4. Townhall Media, founded by the Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation
  5. Media Research Center, a “think tank” that received funding from Exxon
  6. The Washington Times, founded by self-proclaimed messiah Sun Myung Moon
  7. The Federalist Papers, a site that has promoted Covid misinformation
  8. Daily Wire, one of the most engaged-with publishers on Facebook
  9. Russian state media, pushing disinformation via and Sputnik News
  10. Patriot Post, a secretive conservative site whose writers use pseudonyms

Some key takeaways from the report: The Toxic Ten has nearly 186 million followers on various social media platforms. Facebook is where they’re the most prevalent, though Facebook has failed to label 92% of Toxic Ten content despite their promise to attach informational labels to posts about climate change. Eight of the Toxic Ten websites run Google Ads, and have earned an estimated $5.3 million in ad revenue in the last six months alone (1 April – 30 September 2021).

To combat online climate denial, the authors call on social media platforms to take the following actions: Stop monetizing climate denial, Stop profiting from climate denial, and Comprehensively label climate denial.

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