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Lewandowsky, Cook and the Barack Obama tweet that wasn’t

Stephan Lewandowsky (and John Cook) got excited that Barack Obama ‘retweeted’ the (fallacious) 97% consensus study. In The Conversation, Stephan Lewandowsky made it the leading line (right under the name-calling headline):

“When President Obama last week tweeted that “97% of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous” it drew the attention of his 31 million followers to the most recent study pointing to the consensus in climate science.”

As a Professor of Psychology on a academic site, we might assume Lewandowsky might be more factual and less like a direct marketing campaign. (Dear Stephan, there is no chance 31 million followers read his tweets. Twitter is not like that. Obama is following 662,021 people. You think he reads them?)

Worse, that tweet was not by Barack Obama. The @barackobama account is run by an activist group called Organizing for Action (OFA). It’s the fourth biggest twitter account in the world, but Obama gave the account to OFA earlier this year, and he doesn’t appear to have used it since. (Still it’s not like Lewandowsky’s career depends on understanding how people work, and how to spot a fake right? Oh. Wait… )

OFA use Obama’s photo and his name, and at @barackobama they acknowledge that they are running the account. They add that “Tweets from the President are signed -bo”, as if he might use it, someday. Confusingly many tweets end in a link with “OFA.BO/…”  but that’s not the President either. Perhaps the President has used the account to tweet since he handed it over, but The Atlantic Wire said the last tweet from him was Jan 21. I searched 1,000 tweets on Snapbird and couldn’t find any signed “-bo” since then.

Here’s OFA tweeting with Obama’s face and name:

Then there is the last real tweet from the man himself, that I can find:

Obama’s staff used to write a lot of his tweets anyway, and you might ask “what’s the difference?” The difference is that Organizing for Action doesn’t work for Obama, they are supposedly independent:

“The @BarackObama Twitter account clearly states in its description that it is controlled by Organizing for Action,” the OFA official told us, “and this is a Twitter handle that has been controlled and used for years by a nongovernmental organization — Obama for America — without any problems with confusion.”

Kaune points out that OFA’s management of @BarackObama is “no different than Senator So-and-so who doesn’t know how to use an account and has a staffer do that.” But in that case, the social media-savvy staffer works directing for the senator. OFA and Obama have no official relationship.

Which brings us to the curious point that even though OFA tweet in the name of the leader of the Democratic Party, they are legally a non-partisan organization. Figure out how that works.

The arms-length relationship between Obama and Organizing For Action is based on its legal status as a non-partisan organization. As Politico reported in February, the organization updated its guidelines to make that point clearly.

[The Atlantic Wire] “The organization on Wednesday quietly posted new guidelines on its website formally declaring its intention to stay out of campaign politics.

“Neither OFA nor its chapters will be involved in any way in elections or partisan political activity,” OFA wrote. “Its exclusive purpose is public policy advocacy and development, and in particular, both enactment of President Obama’s legislative agenda and the identification and advancement of other goals for progressive change at the state and local level.

They also have tax exempt 501(c)4 status. I don’t suppose they had to wait 29 months for approval from the IRS, had their donor list leaked, or faced letters with 90 questions?

OFA are an independent lobby group, that are also “non-partisanly” hosting a web-page calling Republicans names: http://my.barackobama.com/Hold-Climate-Deniers-Accountable.

I guess if they had convincing arguments they wouldn’t need to name-call?

Twitter has “verified” the BarackObama account, and you might ask what verified means anymore. Twitter says it is “used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter”. As if  it’s authentic for a team of people who aren’t Barack Obama to use his name, position and photo to send out partisan messages in an officially non-partisan way. Twitter, I don’t think this is going to work out well.

As for Stephan Lewandowsky, and John Cook, we’d hope they’d write their papers with more care than their blog posts, but last time I looked they were still claiming 78,000 skeptics could have seen their survey at Cook’s site, where they never hosted a link. Don’t miss the “8 step version of the scientific method according to Lew and Cook” at Australian Climate Madness. I’m pretty sure the University of Bristol is not aware what it has taken on.

There is some back-story here:

h/t to Neville for editing help.

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