Palm Oil Gate, post 1: @knowmiun/@knowmium (Twitter)

Palm Oil Gate, post 1: @knowmiun/@knowmium (Twitter)

#PalmOilGate is a series of investigative posts about the fake claims online that attack proponents of sustainability initiatives, including the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The strengths and weaknesses of the voluntary standards by these initiatives are well covered by science. However, various online accounts are used to polarise the public perception with shallow lies and fake facts.

Tweep “Evon” (@knowmiun, previously @knowmium) is a full-time troll known for harassing/stalking (a.o.) the @RSPOtweets and its supporters. The attacks range from simple libel about bribery, through personal incredulity about obvious differences in logos, to blatant willful ignorance of supply chain certification. When exposed for making false claims, which has happened repeatedly, “Evon” blocks and hides (see header image) and then falsely reports the accounts for exposing the lies.

The most blatant lie by “Evon” so far, tweeted about a month ago, claims to present an image of deforestation for oil palm since 2014. Once exposed, “Evon” doubled down on the claims, then tripled down on them, and even manipulated a cloud’s shadow to suggest deforestation (the bottom right red marker in his image).

The image used is an image posted by the European Space Agency, showing an area in near Amuntai Village (South Kalimantan, Indonesia). But that is about the only true word in the tweet. So, let’s break down this tweet by “Evon” and identify all the lies:

  1. “#Deforestation” is a lie. This image shows “detailed information on vegetation, such as plant type and health” that is “particularly useful for agricultural monitoring“.
  2. “since 2014” is a lie. While the post is dated 12 December 2014, the body of the post clearly states the image was “acquired on 24 February 2010”. Either way, this image does not – and cannot – show changes “since 2014”.
  3. “shown in red” is a lie. The image is known as a “false colour infrared” image, in which the red colour indicates the amount of biomass.
  4. “prime #CloudedLeopard Habitat” is a lie. Data from various sources, e.g. Gaveau et al. 2014, show that this area to be a mosaic of agricultural activities well before 1973. It has not been any natural habitat for 5 decades.
  5. “prior to being cleared for Palm Oil plantation” is a lie. Since the first satellite imagery available (1973), only a small percentage of the image consists of oil palm, with the rest of the area still being a mosaic of agricultural activities (including “possibly rice“).

With more blatant lies by “Evon” that target proponents of sustainable palm oil and other commodities, I’ll be likely posting various updates on this shady account in the future. As for the reason why this tweep agitates against the concept, I suspect it’s pursuing a radical vegan agenda mixed with an unhealthy dose of Bambiism (more on that soon). But it is clearly not an account that makes any credible claims regarding the environmental and social impacts of agricultural activities.

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