Google has joined the ranks of “Big Tech” companies by implementing a “pre-bunking” strategy against so-called misinformation.
In a study published last week, scientists from Cambridge University and Google discussed social experiments where they showed 90-second cartoon clips to people as YouTube advertisements. The researchers used the videos to explain online “manipulation” techniques.
During the experiment, “[e]ach video instantiates the inoculation procedure by first providing a forewarning of an impending misinformation attack, then issuing a preemptive refutation of the manipulation technique used in this attack, and lastly presenting a ‘microdose’ of misinformation in the form of innocuous and humorous examples.”
NBC News’ David Ingram reported that the study was “part of a broad effort by tech companies, academics and news organizations to find new ways to rebuild media literacy, as other approaches such as traditional fact-checking have failed to make a dent in online misinformation.”
Ingram claimed that while interest in “pre-bunking” has been around for years, social media companies only started experimenting with the in the final days of the 2020 election cycle.
“In the days before the 2020 election, social media platforms began experimenting with the idea of ‘pre-bunking,’” Ingram wrote. “Interest in ‘pre-bunking’ misinformation has been percolating for a few years. Twitter used ‘pre-bunking’ on subjects including ballot security in the days leading up to the 2020 election, while Facebook and Snapchat put resources into voter education. Other efforts have focused on Covid misinformation.”
Google is not the first tech company to consider “pre-bunking.” Twitter and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) joined together in a “pre-bunking” campaign in an attempt to stop “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Conspiracy theories cause real harm to people, to their health, and also to their physical safety,” UNESCO said of the campaign. “They amplify and legitimize misconceptions about the pandemic, and reinforce stereotypes which can fuel violence and violent extremist ideologies.”
More recently, NewsBusters “CensorTrack” highlighted Twitter’s announcement that it would use “pre-bunking” to prevent so-called misinformation from surfacing on the platform about the 2022 midterm elections.
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