COP ON TWITTER
This week people have been glued to Twitter for more than the usual reasons. The platform has been sinking since Elon Musk has taken charge. On top of that, it’s where reactions to COP27 have been spreading at speed. For 52INSIGHTS this week we’re breaking down what is happening at Twitter and COP27, and the live implications for brands and businesses.
TWITTER'S GETTING MUSK'D
Since April 2022 the tech world and internet users around the world have been watching closely as Elon Musk started his personal mission to acquire Twitter. After a few lawsuits, Musk finally sealed the deal at the end of October for a cool $44 billion dollars. His mission for the channel has been to create a common digital town square that protects free speech and making a platform of financial value. Montclair State University researchers reported an “immediate, visible and measurable spike” in hate space 12 hours after Musk took over. Musk kicked off with mass layoffs across key departments. After only grasping in hindsight how much these people were needed to build his proposed town square, some jobs have since been offered back, but no one wanted to return. The organisation is rapidly losing its senior leaders - Head of People and Diversity, Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Product and more. To make back his big investment, monetization plans for Twitter users were announced - pay a $20 monthly fee to verify yourself (now just $8) in a feature called Twitter Blue. That didn’t go down well - as users pointed out, if you can pay for verification, how can you verify the person is who they really say they are?
As Musk live tweets his stream of consciousness, it feels like a dystopian digital joke. A joke you now aren’t allowed to tweet about - Musk, now calling himself ‘Caretaker’, starting banning people, including high profile comedians Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin, after creating parody impersonations of him.
Twitter account users aren’t a fan of all this. The question we’re asking is if people aren’t engaging in the platform in the way Twitter communities have come to know and love, does it make sense for brands to be there? Many big brands are no longer investing in the platform, questioning Musk’s approach to content moderation (or lack of). Taking to Twitter, Musk attempted to reassure advertisers. There is speculation people will leave the platform en masse. They are losing their most engaged users, while simultaneously reporting all-time high growth in users. A lot of Twitter users are lamenting the channel but want to watch the thing burn down before they go somewhere else… Mastodon, a relatively new open-source and decentralised social network, has seen users sky rocket in the last week as people seek alternatives away from Twitter. The future’s uncertain but one thing that is sure - Musk’s approach lacks empathy for the employees, the communities and movements created on Twitter. One lawyer commented on Musk’s lack of care - “I do not believe he cares about the human rights activists. the dissidents, our users in un-monetizable regions, and all the other users who have made Twitter the global town square you have all spent so long building, and we all love.”
A COP27 REALITY CHECK
As Twitter’s metaphorical fire rages on, the burning desire for action from world leaders at COP27 heats up:
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned in his Opening Address at COP27 that “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
- There’s controversy about the amount of private jets that were used to travel to Egypt.
- Republican leaders from the US have been praising the benefits of fracking and Nuclear Power, flexing the influence fossil fuels still hold.
- The loss and damage experienced by countries vulnerable to the already devastating impact of inaction can be heard from young people and people living in countries vulnerable to the damage already done. Developing countries are asking for more than just empty promises, they need loss and damage funds. There isn’t room for fossil fuels or corporate interest. Speaking to the UN, a young African activist said - “delegations from African countries and indigenous communities are dwarfed by representatives of corporate interests… There are climate catastrophes and destruction, and my country ends up borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to deal with the repercussions”.
- The big message breaking through and being shared by countless respected thought leaders - enough is enough, act like you care.
- UN experts are demanding a crackdown on vague Net Zero goals from corporations.
“We can’t afford creative accounting. I urge all actors – including cities, regions, businesses, investors, alliances, countries, and regulators to take these recommendations seriously and embed them with urgency.”- Laurence Tubiana, Chief Executive, European Climate Foundation.
- Youth activist Sophia Kianni’s powerful speech commented on the lack of concrete action, that “governments and business leaders are saying one thing, and doing another”. Reinforcing Greta Thunberg’s message of leaders using greenwashing, Kianni implores leaders to stop lying.
- The Gates Foundation pledged $1.4billion to small farm owners to help cope with the impact of climate change.
Connecting the dots between the two big pieces of news, what happens next demands action, empathy, and investment to support those directly impacted. There’s hope in calling Musk’s actions out and bringing attention to his choices having a negative impact, like people calling out Musk’s role in how messages from COP27 are not being amplified on Twitter. It’s important to help more people understand the risks of an unmoderated Twitter and the big role it will playing the spread of misinformation. The algorithm doesn’t always know what’s real and what’s fake.
Sharing the reality of the human rights violations experienced by Egyptian political prisoners, like activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah. “There can be no climate justice without human rights” was shared by people attending peaceful demonstrations, pleading with political leaders to #FreeAlaa, bringing attention to more and more people with this important message.
With technological advancements, there’s potential to recreate things, using tech to the advantage of people and the planet. Al Gore’s speech at COP27 highlighted this - “We are capable of solving this crisis because once the world reaches true net-zero, temperatures will stop increasing in as little as three to five years.” There are more movements, businesses and governments making changes to inspire action. Innovation is showing up in different ways, like in New Zealand last month, new legislation was proposed to charge farmers based on how much cows are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, aka a fart tax. To draw attention to climate change, the beloved actor best known for playing Dwight in The Office US, Rainn Wilson, has changed his name to Rainnfall Heat Wave Extreme Winter Wilson.
Act Like You Care - For all brands, business, leaders and individuals, their role is clear - the word from COP is it’s time to act like you really care. There’s no time for empty promises and inaction. Staying at the sidelines waiting for other people to step up will not be respected. Take action and invest in all people and the planet. Momentum. Speed. Acceleration. This is what our planet needs.
Act with Caution - while sustainability actions need a gear shift upwards, Twitter chat needs a gear shift in the opposite direction. As the platform goes through its own identity crisis, brands are best placed to slow down, be critical and avoid going into an over-tweeting frenzy. ‘Proceed with caution’ is the mantra to embrace.
And amidst all the flux, let’s not forget how important it is to…
Identify The Joy - Sometimes you just need to find some successes, as pointed out by Bill McKibben and the importance of reflecting - “The planet looks just a little better than it did a month ago.”