Google Jigsaw: Confronting Disinformation

Google Jigsaw plans to show ads that educate people about disinformation techniques, following a successful experiment by Cambridge University.

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Google Jigsaw, which tackles online security dangers, will run adverts on YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook that’s intentions are to educate people about disinformation techniques.

Researchers found the videos improved people’s ability to recognise manipulative content. They will be shown in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland to combat fake news about Ukrainian refugees.

Google said the “exciting” findings showed how social media can actively pre-empt the spread of disinformation.The research was founded on a developing area of study called “prebunking”, which investigates how disinformation can be debunked by showing people how it works – before they are exposed to it.

In the experiment, the ads were shown to 5.4 million people, 22,000 of whom were surveyed afterwards. After watching the explanatory videos, researchers found:

The peer-reviewed research was conducted in conjunction with Google, which owns YouTube, and will be published in the journal Science Advances. Beth Goldberg, head of research and development for Google Jigsaw, called the findings “exciting”.

Jon Roozenbeek, the lead author on the paper, said in an interview that the research is about “reducing the probability someone is persuaded by misinformation”.

“Obviously you can’t predict every single example of misinformation that’s going to go viral,” he said. “But what you can do is find common patterns and tropes.

“The idea behind this study was – if we find a couple of these tropes, is it possible to make people more resilient against them, even in content they’ve never seen before?”

The scientists initially tested the videos with members of the public under controlled-conditions in a lab, before showing them to millions of users on YouTube, as part of a broader field study.