How disinformation threatens the success of COP28


The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) was dominated by disinformation that sought to undermine the conference’s goals and the businesses involved. With COP28 taking place in the United Arab Emirates from 30th November 2023, disinformation will inevitably climb once again.

Last year, Kekst CNC Intelligence evidenced that 6% of the Twitter profiles mentioning COP27 were suspected bots responsible for driving an estimated 12% of overall mentions. At the same time, sophisticated disinformation was being targeted by publications known for spreading false narratives or ‘fake news’.

Stories made misleading claims that downplayed the urgency of climate change and cast doubt on the effectiveness of climate policies. The narratives were smart, using language designed to target audience beliefs that would erode public trust in science and stall climate action.

Lost in a sea of letters, disinformation lurked that was designed to remain hidden. Articles covered climate and the environment, business and global economies, science and technology, politics, and international relations. No different from what may be expected from a normal media analysis.

Dig a bit deeper and cracks begin to show. Some headlines are obvious; ‘UN 2030: An Agenda Forged in the Ninth Circle of Hell’ and ‘COP27: Understanding Climate Change and the UN’s Hidden Agenda Behind “Catastrophic Global Warming”’ instantly stir emotions and conspiracy theories.

Other articles are less obvious. The headline, ‘Over 60 Percent of UK Wants Referendum on Net Zero Carbon Policy: Poll’ sounds like any other report. However, it’s published by The Epoch Times that is a conservative publication that was founded by a spiritual group persecuted in China that is known for promoting false and misleading claims. It’s highly influential:

  • The website has a domain authority of 90/100 ( statistic – it has the potential to rank very highly in global search results).
  • It’s estimated to have an annual revenue of $200M – $300M and ranks globally at #2,853 based on website traffic of all other websites in the world. ( statistic)
  • Our specific article has an estimated media reach of 59,000 ( statistic).

If you decide to search for the article and read it yourself, then there are a whole number of red flags – quotes from far-right groups, lack of referencing, and merging of fact and opinion – designed to reinforce audience beliefs. Any brand or executive mentioned by this publication is at reputational risk.

It’s just one of the 21,874 ‘non-credible’ articles that have mentioned the names of FTSE 100 companies over the last 11 months. 150+ publications have been detected to date that have repeatedly been involved in mis- and disinformation. This is based on a dataset of 4.3 million articles that have been shared 975 million times on social media mentioning the FTSE 100 – false narratives blend into the background of normal reporting.

The presence of disinformation surrounding COP27 had potentially far-reaching consequences. Misinformed individuals may question the validity of climate change science and downplay the severity of the global climate crisis. The actions and commitments being made by companies are open to misrepresentation. As a result, the public’s engagement in sustainable practices might be hindered, investors may receive incorrect non-material information, and employees may be misled.

Any business that deals with divisive issues will have a mis- and disinformation challenge, especially in the run-up and during COP28. It’s time to ensure you have the correct monitoring, the necessary communications plans, and you’re prepared for future threats.

About the author

Michael White

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