Noise and misinformation, especially on climate, has long been a problem on social media.
To counter this, Australian not-for-profit the Climate Council has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to inform people about climate science.
Launched on its Facebook page last week, it's an effort to connect with younger people who are interested in issues like climate change, but aren't the most engaged with the organisation — largely due to broader information overload.
"Young people are saturated on social media because they're the most active on it, we know that they care and that they've got the thirst for information," Nelli Huié, digital manager at the Climate Council, explained.
"But because they've got the highest use of social media, they've got the most voices clamouring to reach them through the News Feed. It can be a real challenge for us to cut through that noise."
Image: The climate council
The Climate Council started working with digital agency AKQA on the chatbot project last year. They aim to distill the organisation's high-level science into the more colloquial way people speak on Messenger.
"It's really important to us that information on climate science is available to everyone ... making sure we distill that information in a way that anyone can understand it, and anyone can access it," Huié added.
The chatbot's first iteration is simple, featuring a script that encourages users to take action on climate and assist in lowering emissions. It starts by giving an update on how countries like Australia are tracking to meet the Paris Agreement and leads into more personal responsibility. Eventually, the goal is for the chatbot to become like a "choose your own adventure" book.
"People can [choose] the subject they want more information on, say if it's coal or Great Barrier Reef bleaching, and they can follow along and get information right down to the nitty gritty," Huié said.
In an age where misinformation can swirl around social media unfettered, even by certain world leaders, the chatbot could be a handy tool to bust myths on say, the recent polar vortex in the U.S.
"With this chatbot, once people are engaged with it, we are actually able to send them a message and say, 'Hey here's some facts on the polar vortex, and what's really happening.' I think that's a really cool development," Huié remarked.