Google to expand misinformation "prebunking" in Europe | AP News


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  10 comments


Google to expand misinformation "prebunking" in Europe | AP News
WASHINGTON (AP) — After seeing promising results in Eastern Europe, Google will initiate a new campaign in Germany that aims to make people more resilient to the corrosive effects of online misinformation.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

WASHINGTON (AP) — After seeing promising results in Eastern Europe, Google will initiate a new campaign in Germany that aims to make people more resilient to the corrosive effects of online misinformation.

The tech giant plans to release a series of short videos highlighting the techniques common to many misleading claims. The videos will appear as advertisements on platforms like Facebook, YouTube or TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in India is also in the works.

It's an approach called pre-bunking, which involves teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them. The strategy is gaining support among researchers and tech companies.

"There's a real appetite for solutions," said Beth Goldberg, head of research and development at Jigsaw, an incubator division of Google that studies emerging social challenges. "Using ads as a vehicle to counter a disinformation technique is pretty novel. And we're excited about the results."

While belief in falsehoods and conspiracy theories isn't new, the speed and reach of the internet has given them a heightened power. When catalyzed by algorithms, misleading claims can discourage people from getting vaccines, spread authoritarian propaganda, foment distrust in democratic institutions and spur violence.

It's a challenge with few easy solutions. Journalistic fact checks are effective, but they're labor intensive, aren't read by everyone, and won't convince those already distrustful of traditional journalism. Content moderation by tech companies is another response, but it only drives misinformation elsewhere, while prompting cries of censorship and bias.

Pre-bunking videos, by contrast, are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can be seen by millions when placed on popular platforms. They also avoid the political challenge altogether by focusing not on the topics of false claims, which are often cultural lightning rods, but on the techniques that make viral misinformation so infectious.

Those techniques include fear-mongering, scapegoating, false comparisons, exaggeration and missing context. Whether the subject is COVID-19, mass shootings, immigration, climate change or elections, misleading claims often rely on one or more of these tricks to exploit emotions and short-circuit critical thinking.

Last fall, Google launched the largest test of the theory so far with a pre-bunking video campaign in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The videos dissected different techniques seen in false claims about Ukrainian refugees. Many of those claims relied on alarming and unfounded stories about refugees committing crimes or taking jobs away from residents.

The videos were seen 38 million times on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter — a number that equates to a majority of the population in the three nations. Researchers found that compared to people who hadn't seen the videos, those who did watch were more likely to be able to identify misinformation techniques, and less likely to spread false claims to others.

The pilot project was the largest test of pre-bunking so far and adds to a growing consensus in support of the theory.

"This is a good news story in what has essentially been a bad news business when it comes to misinformation," said Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise, a media literacy initiative of the Poynter Institute that has incorporated pre-bunking into its own programs in countries including Brazil, Spain, France and the U.S.

Mahadevan called the strategy a "pretty efficient way to address misinformation at scale, because you can reach a lot of people while at the same time address a wide range of misinformation."

Google's new campaign in Germany will include a focus on photos and videos, and the ease with which they can be presented of evidence of something false. One example: Last week, following the earthquake in Turkey, some social media users shared video of the massive explosion in Beirut in 2020, claiming it was actually footage of a nuclear explosion triggered by the earthquake. It was not the first time the 2020 explosion had been the subject of misinformation.

Google will announce its new German campaign Monday ahead of next week's Munich Security Conference. The timing of the announcement, coming before that annual gathering of international security officials, reflects heightened concerns about the impact of misinformation among both tech companies and government officials.

Tech companies like pre-bunking because it avoids touchy topics that are easily politicized, said Sander van der Linden, a University of Cambridge professor considered a leading expert on the theory. Van der Linden worked with Google on its campaign and is now advising Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, as well.

Meta has incorporated pre-bunking into many different media literacy and anti-misinformation campaigns in recent years, the company told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.

They include a 2021 program in the U.S. that offered media literacy training about COVID-19 to Black, Latino and Asian American communities. Participants who took the training were later tested and found to be far more resistant to misleading COVID-19 claims.

Pre-bunking comes with its own challenges. The effects of the videos eventually wears off, requiring the use of periodic "booster" videos. Also, the videos must be crafted well enough to hold the viewer's attention, and tailored for different languages, cultures and demographics. And like a vaccine, it's not 100% effective for everyone.

Google found that its campaign in Eastern Europe varied from country to country. While the effect of the videos was highest in Poland, in Slovakia they had "little to no discernible effect," researchers found. One possible explanation: The videos were dubbed into the Slovak language, and not created specifically for the local audience.

But together with traditional journalism, content moderation and other methods of combating misinformation, pre-bunking could help communities reach a kind of herd immunity when it comes to misinformation, limiting its spread and impact.

"You can think of misinformation as a virus. It spreads. It lingers. It can make people act in certain ways," Van der Linden told the AP. "Some people develop symptoms, some do not. So: if it spreads and acts like a virus, then maybe we can figure out how to inoculate people."



jrDiscussion - desc
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
1  Greg Jones    one month ago

So who or what authority determines what is bunk....or not?

Can they be trusted not to spread misinformation, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, or use "fear-mongering, scapegoating, false comparisons, exaggerations. missing context", or misleading claims.


Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Greg Jones @1    one month ago

It has always been fairly easy to disprove what isn't true. What should be just as easy, is presenting the truth to those who have been brainwashed.

Professor Principal
1.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.1    one month ago
presenting the truth to those who have been brainwashed

a pointless effort to those whose minds have already been poisoned by the rightwing alt-media.

Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Greg Jones @1    one month ago
So who or what authority determines what is bunk....or not?

I'm wondering the same thing.  Isn't there a hearing ongoing right now about a US company censoring "misinformation"?

Professor Principal
2  JBB    one month ago

The pro-misinformation MAGA hate this stuff...

How dare private business control themselves?

Professor Guide
2.1  evilgenius  replied to  JBB @2    one month ago
How dare private business control themselves?

Twitter has already been taken over by an idiot. What makes you think any other company can't be bought out by rich populists and turn the tables?

Right Down the Center
Sophomore Guide
3  Right Down the Center    one month ago

Just what I want, some techno nerds deciding what is misinformation for me. I am perfectly capable of thinking and deciding for myself. If someone takes what they find on the internet as facts that is on them.

Professor Principal
4  Texan1211    one month ago
It's an approach called pre-bunking, which involves teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them. The strategy is gaining support among researchers and tech companies.

Did they adopt the strategy used by the folks who pretended Hunter's laptop story was a Russian plant?

Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
5  Sean Treacy    one month ago

This is part of a larger piece about GDI, a British company that deplatforms "disfavored" speech:

As I noted elsewhere , it is outrageously predictable that the subjective whims of one British company, infected with a transparently progressive bias and working without any proper supervision, could affect the corporate decision-making process of Microsoft in such a sweeping way, leaving conservatives only with an after-the-fact appeal. But then that’s only one link in the chain: the State Department — our federal government, using taxpayer money — funded GDI to the tune of $200,000. GDI in turn cranked out a list (based on phony “scholarly studies” brought forth by academia and the likes of the Brookings Institute) of “disinformation websites” that conveniently included a slew of mainstream ones, while GDI and its peers continue to tell the government that the First Amendment is a Bigger Problem Than Ever and, incidentally, they need more money. It’s an ouroboros of multi-industry self-dealing and corruption, a mutually reinforcing web of dependencies and benefits weaving itself together into a new power center in the American media complex. And the parties — all of whom feel threatened by various unruly external factors in society — are all consenting in full to the exchange.

Split Personality
Professor Principal
6  Split Personality    one month ago

Life was so much simpler when Huntley,  Cronkite, Horowitz, Pettit and Chancellor

did the pre-bunking for us.  

Probably saved us from Joe McCarthy.


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