Polestar Is Fighting Your Climate Change-Denying Uncle With a Twitter Reply Bot

Polestar Is Fighting Your Climate Change-Denying Uncle With a Twitter Reply Bot

When I went through my inbox this morning, I came across a fairly innocuous email: ‘Polestar puts spotlight on climate disinformation and misinformation ahead of COP28’. Fair enough, I think; Polestar’s a company where a big part of the sales pitch is caring about the environment, with only electric cars for sale, and proactivity with its sustainability goalsI like Polestar a lot. What wasn’t mentioned in the subject line was that Polestar’s spotlight involves a Twitter (X) bot, built to “help debunk the most common inaccuracies relating to climate change within the automotive industry”.

Good idea! It’s giving Microsoft Tay, but it’s a nice concept, or at the very least, Polestar’s heart is in the right place. The company cites a study from Climate Action Against Disinformation which claims that, compared to any other social media platform, Twitter ranks the lowest on preventing the spread of climate misinformation.

“The deliberate misuse of climate data is incredibly damaging. Particularly now, in the lead-up to COP28, the conversation is muddied between fact and fiction,” Polestar head of sustainability Fredrika Klarén said.

“We believe that the opposite – a truthful use of scientific data – can be a powerful tool to help navigate climate action, and we encourage everyone to join us in spreading this on social platforms.”

So what does the Polestar bot look like in practice? Well, it works through an account called Polestar Climate Truths (@PolestarTruths), which could be misconstrued for an account focused on exposing Polestar for lies, but no, it’s verifiably linked to Polestar’s global accounts.

In reality, Polestar has created a Twitter reply guy. Look at this – here it is quote tweeting a U.S. Congressional candidate who’s just trying to bait engagement by being edgy with extremely easily debunked claims.

And, oh boy, look at this. A Twitter user posted a take that EVs are more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars, explaining in a follow-up tweet that their existence doesn’t negate other hugely harmful problems with our transport networks, such as car-dependent cities, sprawl, and single-user vehicles. That major cities are naturally wasteful because of our reliance on cars instead of more efficient transport, like trains or buses, isn’t a controversial or incorrect take – but obviously, Polestar is a company first and a climate advocacy organisation second – so you get this quote tweet that just addresses the Twitter user’s first message: “EVs are not environmentally friendly”.

Funnily enough, the bot actually replied to another tweet with a source acutely aware of this fact. In this response to a post from The New York Times, the bot notes that carbon offsetting isn’t actually a silver bullet for solving climate change. Oxfam’s study, which Polestar’s reply links to, is urging carbon levels to come down through less consumption, which is obviously at odds with what a company selling luxury EVs is trying to do.

Anyway, we’re missing a bit of detail on Polestar’s bot. What data is it being trained on, beyond the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C’ report and the International Energy Agency’s ‘The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’ report (two reports claimed by Polestar to be sources for the bot)?

Is it leveraging Google Bard, ChatGPT, or another AI application, and is Polestar offsetting the potential climate impacts of this bot with any initiatives? What safeguards are in place to prevent another Microsoft Tay situation? How can users interact with the bot, and does Polestar consider it to be in early access?

Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Polestar for clarification on each of these questions. The bot will be active until December 1.

Image: Polestar

Want more Aussie car news? Here’s every EV we’ve reviewed in the last two years, all the EVs we can expect down under soon, and our guide to finding EV chargers across the country. Check out our dedicated Cars tab for more.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.