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Prebunking is Effective at Fighting Misinfo, Study Finds

By Seth Smalley for Poynter

A study that dropped last week strongly suggests “prebunking” is an effective way to counter the propaganda techniques at the center of mis- and disinformation.

Prebunk is a frequently used term used in the fact-checking space. It’s derived from debunk and means to preemptively refute expected false narratives, misinformation or manipulation techniques. As opposed to fact-checking every instance of a false claim, which many argue is impossible, prebunking seeks to inoculate the public against anticipated narratives in advance.

Researchers say fact-checking is like treating the symptoms of an illness and compared prebunking to vaccination.

The study, published by Science Advances and led by Cambridge researchers in partnership with Jigsaw — a research branch of Google — exposed millions of YouTube users to 90-second clips that explained manipulation techniques, like fearmongering, scapegoating and playing into emotions. Users subsequently completed follow-up surveys at later dates that tested their ability to determine whether a manipulation technique was implemented.

“So think about when you get a vaccine. It has a microdose of the virus. It’s not the whole virus, but it’s like a little piece of it that your body can recognize,” Beth Goldberg, head of research at Jigsaw, told the International Fact-Checking Network. “It’s the same thing in a prebunking video; we show you a little clip of the propaganda, so that you can recognize the manipulation tactics going forward.”

The five manipulation categories depicted in the videos were emotional language, incoherence, false dichotomies, scapegoating and ad-hominem attacks.  For more, click here.

Image by memyselfaneye from Pixaby

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