Update (8/31/23): After publication of this article, 9 out of the 12 videos referenced in this piece were removed by TikTok.
Spanish-language TikTok creators have been pushing fringe conspiracy theories that argue against the existence of man-made climate change, proposing that climate change is a myth created by supposed elites to bring about the so-called Great Reset – a conspiracy theory that claims climate lockdowns will be used to strip individuals of their rights and possessions.
This comes as record heat waves are affecting the entire planet.
Misinformation about climate change on TikTok occurs despite the platform’s moderation policies, which prohibit “climate change misinformation that undermines well-established scientific consensus, such as content denying the existence of climate change or the factors that contribute to it.” Once again, non-English language content that violates platform policy is flying under the radar, spreading damaging misinformation in what is becoming a disturbing trend.
Media Matters found several Spanish-language posts on TikTok denying climate change, insisting it is a hoax made to impose oppressive or even lethal initiatives led by NGOs, like the UN's Agenda 21 and its much newer Agenda 2030, which sets a series of sustainable development goals for 2030. Agenda 2030 conspiracy theories, which are popular in Spanish, are often conflated with the Great Reset, which is also used to deny the need for action on climate change. Other theories include references to a secret weather control program known as HAARP and even flat earth theory.
Other TikToks take clips from news programs where a supposed expert or study is used to sow doubt about the established facts of climate change. One clip had a guest who claimed, “There is no clear evidence that us, human beings, are capable of changing the earth’s climate,” but that what she has clearly seen is “President Biden asleep at the inauguration of the COP26.” Further, several of these news clips were sourced from Russian propaganda outlet RT and despite TikTok’s policy of labeling state affiliated news sources, the videos remained unlabeled – a common discrepancy between English and Spanish content on other major platforms as well.
Other common criticisms of climate science and action come in the form of testimonials or complaints from individuals who deny the existence of climate change without presenting evidence. Additionally, attacks on climate activist Greta Thunberg garner thousands of views and draw false equivalencies between her qualifications and scientists who deny climate change.
Conspiracy theories are increasingly crossing from the fever swamps of Spanish-language media like Telegram onto mainstream social media platforms and news networks like Americano Media. For instance, on the July 11 edition of Battleground Americano, host Jesús Márquez claimed that a so-called “New World Order” and the elites seek to manipulate all countries worldwide through international institutions, that they aim to “enslave the majority of the population,” and that “climate change is an excuse to drive changes that favor the elite.”