Created by Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja and ‘hacktivist’ Bill Posters, Eco-Bot.Net is an online platform which flags the disinformation and greenwashing strategies shared during the Cop26 summit. The results are anxiety-inducing to say the least. 

Del Naja and Posters created the platform in collaboration with green energy industrialist Dale Vince. The platform is a clear condemnation of the key players in spreading climate change ‘disinformation’ or ‘greenwashing’ – whether that’s big energy firms or big tech.

Posters, the platform’s lead artist, has spoken out about the lack of expressed concern over climate change by social media and the influence they could have over it. “We’re talking about three of the world’s largest social media platforms with over four billion users, and none of them have effective policies to limit the harms caused by climate change disinformation or corporate greenwashing. They always say there’s no threat of immediate harm. This is their default PR position.”

The project was originally intended to launch and run as part of Massive Attack’s Liverpool event several months ago, which the group cancelled when it transpired that an arms fair was taking place at the same venue. This then meant that attention shifted to Cop26 instead. Rather than stage a physical stunt in Glasgow, the team instead infiltrated the digital spaces where these activities are rife, both with their own Eco-Bot.Net platform and social media activity.

How does it work? The system pulls in data from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and searches for words and phrases that may fall into a disinformation category.

Once they are detected, the positive matches are funnelled into databases and inspected by an in-house team of human journalists who moderate each post and file them under one of several easy-to-understand groupings: ‘it’s not real’, ‘it’s not us,’ ‘it’s not bad’, ‘the expert’s unreliable’, or ‘climate solutions won’t work’.

Data is then turned into visualisations and flagged on social media like a health warning. The intention behind this system is to treat greenwashing like any other form of harmful hate crime, trolling or discriminatory language on social media. The artists want social media to treat greenwashing in a similar way they treat hate crime for example. 

“If you can build a flagging system to limit the harm from Covid-19 disinformation, and do that pretty effectively when … there wasn’t really consensus around science in many ways, why can’t you do something for the climate when the consensus has been resolute for almost 40 years?” says Posters.

He also explains that they consider ‘climate change disinformation’ to be “intentionally deceptive or clearly misleading content to do with climate change,” Posters says, while they’re drawing on researcher Aoife Brophy Haney’s definition of ‘corporate greenwashing’ to mean “a tactic used by companies that are heavy emitters [to] mislead consumers about the green credentials of the company”.

The process is similar for corporate greenwashing content, however, another system is instead used to comb Facebook and Instagram for ads listed as “political or issue-based”, which have been published this year. In particular, they’re searching for sponsored posts by heavy polluters or emitters, like carbon majors.

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