Fake News Claim: arson responsible for Bushfires

There has been a lot of noise about the Bushfires being arson and not climate related. For example “The Australian”, a prominent media outlet owned by climate denier Rupert Murdoch, ran this bit of literally Fake News …

Bushfires: Firebugs fuelling crisis as national arson arrest toll hits 183

The figure of 183 arrested for Arson turns out to not be true at all, and yet notables such as Donald Trump Jr has repeated and amplified this lie as truth.

What is true?

What do the Police say?

In Victoria, an official police spokesman has explained that there is no evidence that any of the devastating bushfires in the state were caused by arson.

As reported by the Guardian …

In Victoria, 43 alleged arsonists were counted among the 183 arrested “in the past few months” and “since the start of the bushfire season”. That Victorian figure was, in fact, the figure for all of 2019.

There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour,” a Victoria police spokeswoman said.

The reported figure of 183 also includes 101 individuals from Queensland who were “picked up for setting fires in the bush”. But a Queensland police spokeswoman said the figure included a broader range of offences than arson, including the breaching of total fire bans, and was not a total of arrests, but a total of “police enforcement actions”.

“Enforcement action includes charging, restorative justice or cautioning,” she said.

Since this revelation “The Australian” has now modified their story to say the figure covered people “arrested since the start of 2019”, but the headline still stands and continues to fraudulently promote the fake claim.

Bots are fanning flames in this social media war

As reported here …

The Queensland University of Technology senior lecturer on social network analysis Dr Timothy Graham examined content published on the #arsonemergency hashtag on Twitter, assessing 1,340 tweets, 1,203 of which were unique, published by 315 accounts.

Using a Twitter bot detection tool, he assessed a random sample for bot-like characteristics.

His preliminary analysis found there is likely a “current disinformation campaign” on Twitter’s #arsonemergency hashtag due to the “suspiciously high number of bot-like and troll-like accounts”.

He similarly found a large number of suspicious accounts posting on the #australiafire and #bushfireaustralia hashtags.

“Australia suddenly appears to be getting swamped by mis/disinformation as a result of this environmental catastrophe, and we are suffering the consequences in terms of hyped up polarisation and an increased difficulty and inability for citizens to discern truth,”

“Looking at the kinds of accounts that post using the #ArsonEmergency hashtag, you see that these are individuals who are hyper-partisan ideologues, behaving in a way that is not reflective of the average Twitter user.

“The conspiracy theories going around (including arson as the main cause of the fires) reflect an increased distrust in scientific expertise, scepticism of the media, and rejection of liberal democratic authority. These are all major factors in the global fight against disinformation, and based on my preliminary analysis it appears that Australia has for better or worse entered that battlefield, at least for now.”

Things that are well established

  • Climate Change is not only happening, but is being driven by our fossil fuel emissions
  • There has been excessive warming in Australia that has greatly amplified the normal fire season

This is not option or a specific worldview. Scientific data is neither left-wing nor right-wing. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the subject matter experts, are crystal clear about this …

Climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world, including through influencing temperature, environmental moisture, weather patterns and fuel conditions. There have been significant changes observed in recent decades towards more dangerous bushfire weather conditions for various regions of Australia.

Fake News: Arson and Bushfires – Further Reading

Fake News: Arson and Bushfires – Tweets

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