Big Polluter Peabody Energy’s ‘Advanced Pollution For Life’ campaign is using fake social media followers to pretend it has support for misleading claims that dirty coal power helps poor people in the developing world.
Earlier this year US coal giant Peabody Energy launched a social media campaign to promote coal as an “advanced energy” that will solve energy poverty in the developing world. Called Advanced Energy for Life, the campaign was launched in February, 2014 and now has, according to the company “prompted500,000 people to lobby G20 leaders on the issue of energy poverty”. This refers to its approximately 430,000 Facebook Likes and 124,000 Twitter followers.
However, this campaign support has been faked. Scratch the surface and you see its accounts added hundreds of thousands of Facebook supporters and Twitter followers in a few months, with minimal engagement on either platform or promotion of its campaign.
The huge numbers of followers it has gained appear to be bought to give the campaign credibility for lobbying, and the company social license to talk about poverty issues. In reality the only money Peabody appears to spend on the rural poor is what it spends talking about them on its website and social media channels. It spends no money directly helping poor people gain access to electricity, where other coal companies do help (ironically, others like Rio Tinto help by deploying renewable energy), and its arguments for indirect help do not hold up to scrutiny.