A new report by researchers at Columbia University and MIT warns that Twitter users should make it a priority to make their climate data more public.
“We found that, in particular, there was a lot of misinformation and misdirection going on in terms of the accuracy of our data and the extent to which we’re being held to a higher standard than we need to be,” says study co-author Adam Krosnick, a computer science professor at Columbia.
He says this is the result of a shift away from a traditional approach of protecting data with “silly data,” and instead using a more accurate way to understand data.
This is a problem because Twitter users often don’t understand how climate data is used, Krosnik explains.
“Twitter is a platform where a lot is happening on the same day as it is, which means that if people are trying to make sense of what’s happening in their feed, it’s not just a matter of looking at the tweets and seeing the headline, or even the number of people who are tweeting about something, but it’s also how that data is being interpreted,” Kros Nick says.
This includes people who have tweeted about an issue like climate change.
“It can be confusing when you’re trying to understand a tweet and it doesn’t make sense, and then you get into the Twitter API and you get the wrong answer, and you’re saying, ‘Well, what happened to my tweet?’
But that’s really how the data is processed on Twitter.”
Twitter is currently working to better understand its user base and identify what information they tweet about, as well as to make sure that its data is properly aggregated and made public.
In a follow-up study, Krossnick and his team will explore how Twitter could use its data to identify which accounts have tweeted in support of or against climate policies.
The study was published online in the journal Science.