‘Advance booking’ shows promise in the fight against misinformation

Soon after the Russian invasion, the hoaxes began. Ukrainian refugees were taking jobs, committing crimes and misusing handouts. Disinformation quickly spread online throughout Eastern Europe, sometimes pushed by Moscow trying to destabilize its neighbors.

It is a kind of rapid spread of lies that has been blamed in many countries To increase polarization and erode trust In democratic institutions, the press, and the sciences.

But confronting or stopping misinformation has proven elusive.

However, new findings from university and Google researchers reveal that one of the most promising responses to disinformation may also be one of the simplest.

In a research paper published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers detail how short online videos that teach basic critical thinking skills can make people more resilient to misinformation.

The researchers created a series of videos similar to a public service announcement that focused on specific disinformation technologies — characteristics that appear in many common false claims that include emotionally charged language, personal attacks, or false comparisons between two unrelated items.

The researchers then presented people with a series of claims and found that those who watched the videos were significantly better at distinguishing between misinformation and accurate information.

It’s an approach called “pre-booking” and it builds on years of research into an idea known as vaccination theory that proposes exposing people to how misinformation works, using harmless fictional examples, that can bolster their defenses against false claims.

With the results in hand, Google plans to roll out a series of pre-made videos in Eastern Europe soon Focuses on scapegoating, which can be seen in a lot of misinformation about Ukrainian refugees. This focus was chosen by Jigsaw, a division of Google that works on finding new ways to tackle disinformation and extremism.

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“We’ve spent a great deal of time and effort studying the problem,” said Beth Goldberg, chief research officer at Jigsaw and one of the authors of the paper. “We started thinking: How can we make users and people connected to the Internet more resilient to misinformation?”

The two-minute clips next show how these tactics can appear in headlines or social media posts, to make a person believe something is wrong..

It is surprisingly effective. It turns out that people who watched the videos were significantly better at distinguishing between false claims and accurate information when tested by the researchers. The same positive results occurred when the experiment was replicated on YouTube, where nearly a million people watched the videos.

Researchers are now studying how long the effects last, and whether “booster” videos can help maintain the benefits.

Previous findings have indicated that online games or educational programs that teach critical thinking skills can also improve resilience in dealing with misinformation. The videos, which can be played alongside online advertisements, are likely to reach many people, said John Rosenbeck, a professor at Cambridge University and one of the study’s authors.

Other authors include researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and the University of Western Australia.

Google’s efforts will be one of the largest real-world tests of pre-construction to date. The videos will be released on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok in PolandCzech Republic and Slovakia. The three countries have accepted large numbers of Ukrainian refugees and their citizens may be vulnerable to misinformation about refugees.

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Jasmine Green, CEO of Jigsaw, said the work on prep is to complement Google’s other efforts to curb the spread of misinformation: “With the scourge of misinformation growing, there is a lot we can do to provide people with prompts and features that help them stay safe. Learn online.”

While journalistic fact-checks can be effective in debunking a certain piece of misinformation, they are time-consuming and labor-intensive. By focusing on the characteristics of misinformation in general rather than specific claims, pre-roll videos can help a person detect false claims on a variety of topics.

Another way is to moderate content by social media companies It is often inconsistent. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter often remove disinformation that breaks their rules, they are also criticized for failing to do more.. Other platforms like Telegram or Gab boast a largely laissez-faire approach to misinformation.

Moderation in social media content and journalistic fact-checking can also risk alienating those who believe in misinformation. It may also be ignored by people who don’t already trust legitimate news outlets.

“The fact-checking word itself has become politicized,” Rosenbeck said.

However, the pre-planned videos do not target specific claims, nor make any assurances about what is true or not. Instead, they teach the viewer how false claims generally work – whether it’s an election allegation Or NASA landing on the moonor the most recent outbreak of avian influenza.

This portability makes it a particularly effective way to counter misinformation, according to John Cook, a research professor at Australia’s Monash University who has created online games that teach ways to spot misinformation..

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“We’ve done enough research to know that this can be effective,” Cook said. “What we need now are the resources to spread this widely.”

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