“When is a bot a person?,” asked my colleague Kirsten after I learned that the Polestar climate bot more man than machine.
Polestar launched the “Truth Bot” on X (formerly Twitter) ahead COP28the UN climate conference hosted by an oil executive. Truth Bot responds to misleading tweets about the climate crisis and electrification, citing research from IPCC, IEA and Low Carbon. Not surprisingly, the narrative highlights the advancement of electric vehicles. What do you expect from an EV maker?
Polestar said it created the bot “due to the worsening environment when it comes to misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms.” This is not wrong; under Elon Musk, climate denial is Successfully on X especially. The company too hinders research on disinformation.
So, it makes sense that someone would try to fight fire with fire – or in this case bot vs. bot. However, Polestar’s bot is mostly human as far as we know. It automatically identifies tweets in different “topic buckets,” Polestar spokesman Mike Ofiara told TechCrunch via email. “People then take action and choose which tweets to respond to, and choose the appropriate response.”
This strategy is probably for the best. We’ve heard for years about the damage automated posts can do. A 2021 study published in Climate Policy, for example, suggested bots were responsible for nearly a quarter of climate denial tweets. Of course, even if Polestar’s bot is fully automatic, I don’t think it will say anything bad about “Cult of Green Climate.” However, good intentions do not guarantee accuracy.
Researchers have acquired AI tools such as ChatGPT serves climate falsehood. Such tools can also be intentionally misused to easily generate false information. It seems unlikely that a well-intentioned human-verified account could compete, volume-wise, with fully automated bots on top of actual people tweeting lies, but apparently not ‘y harm to try.
It’s also important to consider that Polestar focuses on the advantages of electric cars over gas guzzlers. Comparing the two, the benefits of EVs are clear as far as air quality and carbon emissions are concerned. However, so far, Polestar’s narrative has not mentioned buses or trains. These and other forms of public transportation are usually ignoredBUT critical transport decarbonization components.