Google Expands 'Prebunking' In Europe

Google plans to launch a campaign in Germany that aims to help people counter the effects of online misinformation, after seeing success in Eastern Europe.

A series of short videos will highlight and demonstrate techniques that are common to misleading claims. The approach called prebunking focuses on teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them.

The videos will appear as ads on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in stated to run in India, reports the Associated Press (AP).

“There’s a real appetite for solutions,” Beth Goldberg, head of research and development at Jigsaw, an incubator division of Google, told the AP. “Using ads as a vehicle to counter a disinformation technique is pretty novel. And we’re excited about the results.”



As the AP points out, falsehoods and conspiracy theories are not new, but the internet and its algorithms give them speed, reach, and power.

Fact checking and content moderation are effective, but labor intensive. Readers of online news and information need to learn how to discern for themselves what is real based on educating themselves.

“Prebunking videos are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can be seen by millions when placed on popular platforms,” according to the AP. “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.”

Short videos and photos will demonstrate the ease in which people can identify something false. The AP provided this 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.

The techniques include fear-mongering, scapegoating, false comparisons, exaggeration and missing context.

Google last fall launched the largest test of the theory so far with a prebunking video campaign in Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The videos analyzed different techniques seen in false claims about Ukrainian refugees.

The videos that rely on alarming and unfounded stories about refugees committing crimes or taking jobs away from residents were seen 38 million times on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter.

The pilot project was the largest test of prebunking to date.

Prebunking, however, comes with challenges. The effects of the videos eventually wear off, requiring the use of periodic “booster” videos.

Google will announce its new German campaign Monday ahead of next week’s Munich Security Conference.

The AP also notes that Meta has incorporated prebunking into different media literacy and anti-misinformation campaigns in recent years.

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