Environmental Twitter dies after Elon Musk takeover

environmental twitter dies after elon musk takeover.jpg Science

Almost half of "Environmental Twitter" has vanished from the platform now called X, new research shows. A wave of "environmentally oriented" users abandoned the site after Elon Musk took over, according to a study published this week in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. This study confirms fears about how Musk’s leadership might quell climate discourse and scientific research on the platform. Twitter was once an important tool for environmental researchers and activists, but now, a once vibrant community on X has withered, potentially impacting conservation efforts and climate action.

The study, led by Charlotte Chang, an assistant professor of biology and environmental analysis at Pomona College, analyzed Twitter activity between July 2019 and April 2023. The researchers identified 380,000 users who frequently discussed climate change and biodiversity conservation, collectively referred to as "Environmental Twitter." However, by April, only 52.5 percent of those users remained active on the platform. This drop-off was much more significant compared to a control group of individuals involved in Twitter discussions about the 2020 presidential election, known as "Politics Twitter." The decline in active users within Environmental Twitter coincided with Musk’s acquisition of the platform, which led to various issues, including an increase in climate misinformation and hate speech. As a result, many scientists and environmental advocates have moved to alternative platforms such as Mastodon. The study suggests the need for a new platform to ensure continued opportunities for information exchange, mobilization, and research within the environmental community.


Almost Half of "Environmental Twitter" Disappears After Elon Musk Takes Over

A new study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution reveals that nearly half of the "Environmental Twitter" community has vanished from the platform now known as X since Elon Musk took over. This wave of environmentally oriented users abandoning the site has raised concerns about the impact on climate discourse and scientific research. Prior to Musk’s leadership, Twitter served as an essential tool for environmental researchers and activists, fostering vibrant discussions on environmental topics.

The study, led by Charlotte Chang, an assistant professor of biology and environmental analysis at Pomona College, examined Twitter activity between July 2019 and April 2023. The researchers identified 380,000 users who frequently discussed climate change and biodiversity conservation, collectively known as "Environmental Twitter." However, by April, only 52.5 percent of these users remained active, posting at least once every 15 days.

Compared to a control group called "Politics Twitter," the drop-off rate among Environmental Twitter users was significantly higher. While only 20.6 percent of Politics Twitter users became inactive during the same period, the proportion of active Environmental Twitter users decreased dramatically after Musk’s acquisition of the platform in October 2022. This decline coincided with other issues that arose on Twitter following the leadership change, such as an increase in climate misinformation and hate speech.

One of the consequences of Musk’s takeover was the closure of academic research that relied on Twitter data. Twitter began charging exorbitant fees for access to its API, making it unaffordable for many researchers. Moreover, with the dwindling number of users on the platform, Twitter has become less useful for monitoring public discourse or engaging with the public. As a result, many scientists have reduced their time spent on X, with some migrating to alternative platforms like Mastodon.

The study suggests that it is important to explore where former members of Environmental Twitter have migrated and consider launching campaigns to encourage their migration to a new platform. This would ensure that opportunities for information exchange, mobilization, and research continue in a supportive environment.

In response to inquiries, X simply stated, "We’ll get back to you soon," indicating the lack of communication from the platform to address these concerns. The decline of Environmental Twitter and the challenges faced by scientists and environmental advocates on X highlight the need for a platform that prioritizes climate discourse and scientific research while fostering respectful and ethical interactions.

Takeaways:

  • The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk has led to a significant drop in the number of users in the "Environmental Twitter" community.
  • The decline in the vibrant online ecosystem for environmental discussions raises concerns about the impact on conservation efforts and climate action.
  • Environmental Twitter users were more likely to become inactive compared to a control group of Politics Twitter users.
  • Musk’s leadership has resulted in an increase in climate misinformation and hate speech on the platform.
  • The closure of academic research relying on Twitter data and the platform’s decreasing usefulness for monitoring public discourse have further hindered scientific engagement.
  • Scientists and environmental advocates are exploring alternative platforms like Mastodon and considering launching campaigns to migrate to new platforms that support information exchange, mobilization, and research.
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