No ‘echo chambers’ in Reddit climate debate

Peer-Reviewed Publication

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Climate change debates on Reddit don’t happen in polarised “echo chambers”, new research suggests.

The study found evidence suggestive of more “deliberative debate”.

University of Exeter researchers examined the topics, information sources and the existence of different communities in Reddit climate discussions.

They found little evidence of echo chambers – contrasting with previous research on Twitter which found discussions of climate change often occur within polarising echo chambers. 

However, the study did find evidence of polarisation, with the most common topic in climate-related posts and comments being “incivil debate” (containing name-calling and unfriendly language).

“We also found evidence suggestive of more ‘deliberative debate’, with lots of discussion about important aspects of the climate crisis and many topics suggestive of debate that is not incivil,” said lead author Kathie Treen, from the University of Exeter.

“It was encouraging to see a lack of echo chambers, aside from a single pro-Trump community which has since been banned by Reddit.

“Even though there’s polarisation in terms of opinion, the two sides are debating in the same place.”

The researchers used three methods to analyse climate discussions on Reddit:

  • Topic modelling (data on words commonly found together, which can reveal the subjects being discussed). This showed wide-ranging discussions on subjects including the causes and impacts of climate change, politics, economics and science. But “incivil debate” was dominant in more posts and comments than any other subject, and climate scepticism/denial was a close second.
  • Community detection (which people engage with each other?). A “reply network” based on who replies to whom was used to detect communities of individuals. Mapping the interactions between these communities revealed what Treen called a “hairball” of interconnected communities. Rather than echo chambers whose members only spoke to each other, the different communities were “highly connected” (measured by the level of interaction between the different communities). 
  • Analysis of sources (which sources did users cite?). The sources cited suggest an overall leaning that is somewhat left-wing politically and environmentalist in its climate perspective. Wikipedia was the most shared source, followed by YouTube and Twitter. The only traditional “expert-generated” sources in the top 10 were the Guardian and Nasa. The IPCC – the authoritative assessment of climate change information – was 35th.

Treen explained that “whilst most research on social media climate debate has focussed on Twitter, Reddit has a different platform architecture, for example community moderation and theme-based rather than follower-based information flows”.

She added: “The findings of our paper suggest that platform architecture plays a key role in shaping climate debate online.”

The study used data from 1 April to 30 June 2017 – an important period in climate politics, as the US announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on 1 June that year.

The researchers analysed 18,558 posts and 267,147 comments from 93,850 users related to the issue of climate change.

The paper, published in the journal Environmental Communication, is entitled: “Discussion of Climate Change on Reddit: Polarized Discourse or Deliberative Debate?”

The paper’s authors include researchers working on ACCESS, a new five-year project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council that aims to provide leadership on the social science contribution to tackling and solving a range of environmental problems. It will build leadership capacity in a new cohort of early career researchers and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure social science evidence informs decision-making.


JOURNAL

Environmental Communication

DOI

10.1080/17524032.2022.2050776 

METHOD OF RESEARCH

Data/statistical analysis

SUBJECT OF RESEARCH

People

ARTICLE TITLE

Discussion of Climate Change on Reddit: Polarized Discourse or Deliberative Debate?

ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE

10-Apr-2022

From EurekAlert!

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Max More
May 27, 2022 6:07 pm

The Guardian is “an expert-generated source”? In what universe?

Tom Halla
Reply to  Max More
May 27, 2022 6:23 pm

Similarly, taking Wankerpedia as an “expert” source is either a partisan or a fool.

TonyL
Reply to  Max More
May 27, 2022 8:01 pm

I am pretty sure we just has a post on a Dilbert cartoon which explained this.
This one data point tells me all I need to know about the authors.

lee
Reply to  Max More
May 27, 2022 8:02 pm

Yes I had that down as a comment. Luckily my coffee was too far from my elbow.

Reply to  Max More
May 28, 2022 4:47 am

Same for NASA, meaning GISS. This is the alarmist universe. Note reference to “climate crisis”. They have their own science.

Allen Stoner
May 27, 2022 6:22 pm

Not my experience on Reddit. Maybe there are discussions, but for the most part, people on reddit who are on the right are frequently censored if not outright banned. Particularly if they are effective. Which is why the pro-trump group among others was banned from the platform. I am not particularly pro-trump, and certainly not pro 2024 trump.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Allen Stoner
May 28, 2022 3:52 am

I’m pro-Trump 2024.

jeffery P
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 28, 2022 6:42 am

I’m pro MAGA.

Jtom
Reply to  Allen Stoner
May 28, 2022 11:47 am

I am pro-Trump policies regardless of who will implement them. It’s not a drinking buddy I’m voting on.

Chris Hanley
May 27, 2022 6:31 pm

It was encouraging to see a lack of echo chambers, aside from a single pro-Trump community which has since been banned by Reddit. 🤣

Sounds like the climate ‘debates’ on Reddit are where everyone ultimately is in furious agreement.

Peter
Reply to  Chris Hanley
May 29, 2022 4:46 pm

If you disagree, you get downvoted heavily and your comment may disappear. There is strong disincentive to participate.

Geoff Sherrington
May 27, 2022 7:00 pm

Typical example of chattering class navel gazing. The main purpose is far from clear and possibly reflects more mind control methods for pushing climate change tall stories. Geoff S

Pop Piasa
May 27, 2022 7:02 pm

So, anytime a large number of bloggers agree about something it has become an “echo chamber” and must be silenced by denying the perpetrators their right to freedom of speech.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
May 27, 2022 7:32 pm

(This only applies to non-approved viewpoints, of course.)

Alexy Scherbakoff
May 27, 2022 7:07 pm

I guess I must be on a different Reddit to the one they did a study on. It’s a prime example of consensus thinking.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
May 27, 2022 7:24 pm

I unsubscribed when they pushed Paul Ehrlich as some kind of oracle guru. CNET has just told me that we are in a mass extinction and to prepare for power outages. I won’t unsubscribe from it yet because I find it so comical (in a sick sort of way).

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Pop Piasa
May 28, 2022 5:24 am

Wasn’t CNET a PC enthusiast site when it started? They should stick to their a subject where they at least have a little expertise.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
May 28, 2022 3:54 am

“It’s a prime example of consensus thinking.”

I think that is what they were describing. That’s why they are so happy about the results, because it all agrees with their viewpoint.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
Prjindigo
May 27, 2022 7:48 pm

95% of pro-science comment and argument against global warming/climate change or even CO2 get gang-downvoted by people with stacks of account bots and on many subreddits you get banned from them for replying to the stupidity of the warmists and panicists.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Prjindigo
May 27, 2022 7:56 pm

This sort of thing would have really helped in solidifying pre-WW2 Germany and Italy. Who knows how much faster they might have been able to indoctrinate the mass population and imprison the dissenters? Come to think of it, Joseph Stalin would also have really enjoyed seeing this!

Last edited 1 month ago by Pop Piasa
TonyL
May 27, 2022 7:58 pm

Looks like garbage to me.
aims to provide leadership on the social science contribution to tackling and solving a range of environmental problems.

They are talking specifically about environmental problems. Rationally, we expect diverse fields in the physical sciences to be brought to bear. These would include biology, chemistry, physics, various earth sciences and ecology to start. So what do we get?
“The social science contribution”. Wonderful.
Social science is easy, all you have to do is spout off with uninformed opinions, the kind you get in Liberal Arts classes in college. Real sciences are hard. You have to study them and learn things.Real science classes are hard. Most students, outside of the sciences, will not take them. As a result, most “science” debates on campus involve misinformed opinions by liberal arts majors. People who do not agree with the prevailing campus polemic are shouted down. Real science majors are pointedly *not* welcome.
All of which describes Reddit perfectly.

It has been noted that the best way to control debate is to confine any topic within strict limits then allow spirited debate within those limits. This gives the illusion of free and open debate.
The climate debate provides an example of this in practice.
Allow debate between the limits of “Climate Change is catastrophic” all the way to “Climate Change catastrophe can be averted with draconian measures”. Fierce debate follows.
Positions like “Climate Change is not happening (yet)” to “Climate Change will be mildly beneficial” are not allowed, and will not be tolerated.

All this is firmly in Orwell 1984 territory.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  TonyL
May 27, 2022 8:16 pm

All this is firmly in Orwell 1984 territory.”

Which is exactly where their propaganda portrays Trump. Projection in action.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  TonyL
May 27, 2022 11:05 pm

Real science is also about repeatability, and predictions that come true. It also uses math, and there is only one right answer (usually). That all drives the non-scientists crazy.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  TonyL
May 28, 2022 3:58 am

“The social science contribution”.

I think what this really means is their goal is to hone their propaganda skills for use by leftwing leadership.

Jeff Alberts
May 27, 2022 8:06 pm

“We also found evidence suggestive of more ‘deliberative debate’, with lots of discussion about important aspects of the climate crisis and many topics suggestive of debate that is not incivil,” said lead author Kathie Treen, from the University of Exeter.”

No research bias here, no sireee!

TonyL
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 27, 2022 8:24 pm

Great catch. I missed that one.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 27, 2022 8:34 pm

Today’s “science” revolves around garnering emotional appeal in the mainstream media. If have good publicists at your institution of higher education, you can gain more credibility with the general public through the eye of the media. That credibility can then be used to reinforce results of research that confirms the bias of the consensus and results in continued personally and institutionally directed monetary compensation, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pop Piasa
James Bull
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 28, 2022 12:26 am

Everyone sitting in a circle screaming we’re all gon’a die doesn’t strike me as debating anything, but maybe that’s just me.
I love that I’m now of an age where I can be “the grumpy old man” and throw difficult and unwanted facts into the debate.
A workmate got dragged along to an Extinction Rebellion meeting and happily took most of their arguments apart with facts that had them squirming.

James Bull

Dave Fair
Reply to  James Bull
May 28, 2022 8:19 am

They didn’t physically attack him?

H.R.
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 28, 2022 8:58 am

No. They smeared themselves with super glue and hugged him. Uuggghhhh!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
May 28, 2022 4:00 am

“suggestive of debate that is not incivil,”

Uncivil.

H.R.
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 28, 2022 9:17 am

I saw that, too, Tom. But ‘U’ and ‘I’ are next to each other on the keyboard and I couldn’t decide if it was a “one key off” typo or not.

So I looked at online definitions and uncivil and uncivil are the same, I only remember learning uncivil. My spell check doesn’t recognize incivil and suggests uncivil, so I guess my spell check is old school like me.

Language and spelling do change over time, but also, sometimes people are just making stuff up.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  H.R.
June 2, 2022 9:31 am

uncivil and uncivil are the same”

I sure hope so!

paul
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 28, 2022 7:43 pm

I wondered about that too. Don’t think I ever heard incivil before

Rich Davis
May 27, 2022 8:42 pm

YouReekAlot! never fails to be a perfect indicator of pure rubbish.

Sounds like the “debate” centers around important topics such as the need to silence deniers, the need to have severe punishments for deniers, whether the death penalty might be acceptable when dealing with deniers, how many months before the irreversible climate tipping point, or did it already occur?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Rich Davis
May 28, 2022 4:02 am

I think you summed it up pretty good there, Rich. 🙂

Peta of Newark
May 27, 2022 9:32 pm

So these people, egged along by a dyslexic clone of Kermit’s g/f, have eavesdropped on other folks talking about (could have been any subject) Climate.

And produced a pretentious pile of irrelevance, under the delusion that it is ‘important work/research’ – exclusively based upon their personal biases/preferences and whether they like & agree with what’s being talked about.
Is there really nothing else of any importance these people could be doing instead – picking their own noses for example.
But that’s just what this is, picking their own noses and eating the bogeys while blatantly grovelling & squirming their way into the affections of Big Brother.

(I had experience of Uni Exeter via Futurelearn courses and in Exeter’s case, Big Brother would be an ADHD Autistic 5 year old)

michel
May 27, 2022 11:21 pm

I don’t read Reddit, but used to follow the climate discussions on Ars Technica over a couple of years a while back.

The typical pattern would be an alarmist story, followed by a tirade of posts about how right wing nutcases were bent on destroying the planet and denying global warming.

From time to time a dissenter would appear, and be moderated into invisibility and then finally be banned by management.

Absolutely no dissent about climate was permitted in the comments. It got so predictable that I stopped reading. You’d see some naive new entrant start behaving like it was a real discussion, and you knew that they were going to be banned in a couple of months, and they duly would be.

Its funny that this story mentions Trump, who is the other bete noire on Ars Technica and similar places. There was a similar pattern to stories about him. Trump was a fascist and Jan 6 was a seriously attempted coup. Some naive person took to posting what real fascism was and was not, as studied and analyzed in the academic literature and suggested that maybe Trump, whatever his defects, didn’t quite fit the bill.

Moderated to invisibility and then banned.

This has made the discussion pages on Ars a complete echo chamber. The Guardian, last time I looked, was not much better.

Climate believer
Reply to  michel
May 28, 2022 12:29 am

“The typical pattern would be an alarmist story, followed by a tirade of posts about how right wing nutcases were bent on destroying the planet and denying global warming”.

That’s exactly what Reddit posts are like, but nowadays you see a lot more “end times” posts describing the futility of the situation and the inevitable spiral of doom that the human race has set in motion.

They are also obsessed with ridding the planet of cows.

On a positive note many of these doomsters have decided to not have children. #bonus

James Bull
Reply to  michel
May 28, 2022 12:42 am

While trying to discuss Global Warming with someone I suggested that when going to various websites that they look to see if any debate is allowed and what happens to those that ask questions or quote data and facts.
Also look to see on sites like this how those that question and disagree are treated most get answers further question and listened to, to help them understand (I did say that even serial offenders have to get really bad before they get banned)
I also pointed out that many pro sites don’t allow any comments good or bad which to me suggests that they don’t want debate or questioning of their truth as they see it.
The person came back to me and told me that even when they didn’t agree with some posts they were listened to and not just shouted down or blocked as had happened on one of their favorite sites till this time.

James Bull

James Bull
May 28, 2022 12:09 am

As the University of Exeter and the UK Met office (based in Exeter) are almost joined at the hip I’m not surprised that they don’t find an echo chamber to be an echo chamber as they are almost living in one the whole time.
The most telling statement was about the pro Trump group being barred, seeing anyone who disagrees with the left leaning narrative being removed and not seeing a link to a lack of questioning about Global Warming shows they’ve lived too long in said echo chamber and have lost the ability to think for themselves.
Laughing at their statements is about all I can do and hope they start to understand.

James Bull

Richard Page
Reply to  James Bull
May 28, 2022 4:35 am

“…hope they start to understand.” Get used to disappointment, most of them are incapable of understanding.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Richard Page
May 28, 2022 8:31 am

Ideology trumps facts [inadvertent pun] until things fall apart. Historically worldwide this a truism and is universally highly destructive to humanity’s wellbeing.

2hotel9
May 28, 2022 3:26 am

My experience on reddit is that if you are not in lockstep with leftist ideology you get A. attacked ceaselessly and 2. banned. Must be a different reddit in England. Oh, yea, it ain’t, same as over here in The World.

bonbon
May 28, 2022 5:37 am

reddit was taken over by the Atlantic Council, the NATO stink tank, in 2019.
https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Jessica_Ashooh
Will it go the way of Nina Jankowicz’s DHS DGB, now ‘paused’?

NATO is the knuckedragger for the Green Great Reset.

Richard Page
May 28, 2022 5:53 am

It’s O/T but funny – animal rights protesters confronted an annual meeting of farmers in Co. Durham recently and got more than they bargained for. The protesters lit smoke flares, unfurled banners and climbed up onto flimsy tin roofs before getting sprayed with manure and their signs torn down by the, now, angry farmers!

dk_
May 28, 2022 7:04 am

Comment withdrawn.

Last edited 1 month ago by dk_
Andy Pattullo
May 28, 2022 8:17 am

A pro Trump group was banned and they claim the discussions are not polarized. They seem to think being polarized is saying things the authors don’t agree with, essentially admitting the authors and their report are, by definition, polarized.

May 28, 2022 6:36 pm

“University of Exeter researchers examined the topics, information sources and the existence of different communities in Reddit climate discussions.

They found little evidence of echo chambers”

University of Exeter has proven itself as highly biased thoroughly climate alarmist facilities. Intellectual honest they are not.

“It was encouraging to see a lack of echo chambers, aside from a single pro-Trump community which has since been banned by Reddit.”

Simple proof that Reddit practices the same debate practices that climate alarmists follow.

Bob
May 29, 2022 1:56 pm

This nonsense has to stop. Please tell me these shysters didn’t get paid for this crap.

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