An Overview Of Prebunking In Cybersecurity
By Tom Seest
Tech companies, nonprofits, and government agencies use prebunking to protect people against the damaging effects of misinformation. This strategy, which draws upon social psychology research, is becoming more popular among both researchers and tech firms alike.
Twitter has increasingly included prebunks in its election-related efforts in recent years, and Google’s Jigsaw unit ran a prebunking video campaign last year that targeted internet users in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. According to Google, the results were encouraging.
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Prebunking is the practice of alerting individuals to the tactics and tricks that cause false claims to spread quickly. It has gained significant traction among tech companies and government agencies who are facing off against misinformation in an age of fake news, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.
Last year, Google’s Jigsaw unit conducted a large-scale test of prebunking theory using video to highlight techniques used in false claims about Ukrainian refugees. The videos were viewed 38 million times across Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter; those who saw them were more likely to recognize misinformation techniques than those who hadn’t.
Results were encouraging, though there’s still much to learn about how prebunk works. Effectiveness varies by country and requires time to craft messages tailored specifically for a certain audience and format. Furthermore, periodic “booster” videos are necessary in order to maintain momentum throughout the process.
Unfortunately, it may not be successful for everyone; much like a vaccine, you need to be in the right place at the right time in order to reap its benefits. That is why Google has launched several other campaigns in an attempt to make people more resilient against online misinformation; one campaign in Germany includes videos demonstrating common tactics.
This strategy is built upon an age-old theory in social psychology called “inoculation.” This concept suggests people become more resistant to fake news if they’ve been exposed to tactics and tricks employed by false narratives that might arise within their social circles. Governments and tech companies need to take proactive measures like this one in order to safeguard their citizens from online disinformation.
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Prebunking is a strategy employed by tech companies, nonprofits, and governments to help people spot false claims before they spread. It’s based on the inoculation theory from social psychology.
The theory suggests that providing people with a small dose of what it looks like to be misled online can prevent them from being swayed by false information. To test this hypothesis, researchers ran video campaigns on popular social media platforms in both the U.S. and Europe, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
These videos demonstrated common deceptive techniques used to lead people astray, such as fear-mongering, scapegoating, exaggeration, distorting or misinterpreting a topic, and neglecting context. According to research findings, people were 5% better at recognizing these tactics after watching the videos compared to those who hadn’t viewed them.
Unfortunately, results vary between individuals, and it’s difficult to gauge how effective pre-bunking efforts are for different groups of people. Google’s prebunking campaign in Eastern Europe showed greater effects in Poland than in Slovakia.
Google Germany is launching a pre-bunking campaign in an effort to build people’s resilience against misinformation. It will feature short videos that illustrate common techniques commonly employed to deceive consumers.
These ads will run across platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter in Germany and India to reach a broad audience. They will be accompanied by fact-checking and contextual information regarding the underlying topics of the ads.
This is an important step in the fight against misinformation, as it helps communities build psychological resilience to misleading claims. Additionally, it encourages people to think more critically about their information and seek out additional sources, thus helping them avoid being influenced by false narratives.
Though more research needs to be done in order to pinpoint which messages will be most successful, prebunking has the potential for rapid scale-up and increased resilience against disinformation. It can also be combined with other tactics like content moderation or traditional journalism in order to counter false narratives.
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In today’s climate of misinformation and fake news, it is more critical than ever for individuals to be able to distinguish what is false from where the information originates. That is why an increasing number of researchers and tech companies are advocating for a strategy known as prebunking: it helps ensure accurate fact-checking before spreading false information.
Prebunking is a proactive prevention strategy that alerts people in advance that they might be receiving false information and teaches them how to spot it right away. According to Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at Cambridge University who helped develop Go Viral!, an interactive web game employing this theory, prebunking can be an effective tool in combatting conspiracy theories, misinformation, and other forms of disinformation.
One example of prebunking is Google’s Jigsaw unit in Eastern Europe, which sought to prevent anti-refugee claims about Ukraine’s population crisis. The campaign sought to teach users how to recognize misinformation techniques like scapegoating and deliberate incoherence.
According to research, those who watched videos were more likely to recognize and avoid spreading them to others. This suggests that using this technique can provide communities with a type of herd immunity against damaging false claims, potentially reducing their impact.
What’s more, this approach doesn’t undermine traditional debunking tactics – on the contrary, it can actually strengthen them.
This approach, known as “inoculation,” has gained support from social media companies and governments alike; however, its implementation can be challenging. That is why platforms such as YouTube and Twitter are now testing it out in addition to debunking false claims.
Researchers from Cambridge and Bristol joined forces with Google’s Jigsaw unit to conduct prebunking testing. The result was a series of 90-second animated videos that showcase some common manipulation techniques used in misinformation campaigns, which were shown both to participants in a lab setting as well as as advertisements on YouTube.
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Disinformation is a serious threat: trolls, extremist groups, and conspiracy theorists can spread false data that can destroy trust and cause major financial harm to your business. Unlike ransomware, which encrypts data and leaves your company offline for hours or days, disinformation campaigns lack government oversight and can be launched by anyone – from activists to dubious e-commerce algorithms or pranksters posing as customer service representatives for brands.
Google first tested prebunking, or a similar approach, last year in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Since then, they have expanded these initiatives to Germany and are also testing it out in India.
The concept is to alert individuals to the latest digital manipulation and provide them with guidance on how to avoid it by showing a visually stunning video with an accompanying display. Unlike some of the more fanciful measures of intelligence, prebunking has been proven effective at producing results. In our increasingly connected world, where misinformation spreads faster and reaches more people than ever before, having effective measures in place, such as prebunking, can be invaluable tools for protecting yourself and your customers from such harm.
This photo was taken by Tima Miroshnichenko and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-black-hoodie-holding-a-bank-card-5380665/.