The BBC has introduced an interactive social and news platform created for the sole purpose of informing on climate change. Through Facebook Messenger, the user speaks with a “chat bot” to ask any questions they may have about climate change. The bot has a friendly, casual tone, using humorous photographs that might be seen elsewhere on social media. Those who subscribe will get an alert once a week, engaging them with a plethora of topics surrounding climate change and tips on what they can do to take action.
The bot allows the user to answer with auto-generated responses such as “yes” and “no”, so it can educate throughout the chat without the user having to ask any questions unless they have them. The messaging service enables the user to see what other people are asking or ask questions themselves.
Although the conversation is limited, this signifies efforts to educate the public through means they are familiar with - social media. There are approximately 2.23 billion monthly users of Facebook Messenger and the average person in the connected world uses social media for 2.5 hours a day, by harnessing part of this attention, there is potential to shift mindsets and inspire action.
The chatbot urges that it does not aim to lecture, this suggests that people are resistant to education about climate change, but the weekly conversation could raise awareness and spark dialogue. Additionally, people may be willing to ask the bot questions that they are hesitant to ask real people in case they offend or appear uneducated. Will this approach to educating the public be a success, igniting conversation and inspiring action?