Google is preparing to launch a new “prebunking campaign” in Germany, claiming its purpose is to educate people about the damaging effects of online “misinformation.”
AP News reports that tech giant Google has announced plans to release a collection of “prebunking” videos to teach Germans how to recognize false information before they come across it. The videos will be promoted on websites like Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. A similar campaign is also in the works in India.
The Prebunking technique focuses on the methods that make viral information, including information that Google labels as “misinformation,” so contagious. The Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe claim that viral information about topics from coronavirus and climate change to elections and mass shootings, frequently use tactics like exaggeration, scapegoating, false comparisons, and missing context.
So far, the biggest test of the theory was Google’s prebunking campaign in Eastern Europe in the fall of last year. The campaign included several videos debunking exaggerated and unfounded claims made about Ukrainian refugees. On Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter, the videos were viewed 38 million times, equal to the three countries’ combined population. Researchers discovered that those who had watched the videos were more likely to be able to recognize misinformation tactics and less likely to spread allegedly false information to others than those who had not.
The new Google campaign in Germany will concentrate on images and videos and the ease with which they can be used to support false claims. For instance, after the earthquake that struck Turkey last week, some social media users posted a clip of the enormous explosion that occurred in Beirut in 2020, claiming that the earthquake had caused a nuclear explosion.
Tech companies prefer prebunking, according to Sander van der Linden, a professor at the University of Cambridge and the world’s foremost authority on the subject, because it steers clear of sensitive issues that can quickly become politically divisive.
However, prebunking has its own difficulties. The videos’ effects eventually fade, necessitating the use of recurrent “booster” videos. The videos must also be well-made and tailored for various languages, cultures, and demographics in order to keep the viewer’s interest. Google discovered that the results of its campaign in Eastern Europe varied from nation to nation, with the videos having the greatest impact in Poland but having little to no impact at all in Slovakia. Researchers theorize that this may be because the videos were dubbed into Slovak rather than produced especially for the local market.
Google has been extremely worried about what it considers “misinformation” online for some time, going as far as to manipulate search results and increase censorship across its platforms to prevent the mention of anything that it considers to be untrue. It will be interesting to see the types of “misinformation” that Google attempts to “prebunk.” Although Google tends to shroud its activities under the guise of fighting misinformation, in practice it often simply takes the shape of censoring conservatives, such as when the search giant erased Breitbart News from search results on the subject of Joe Biden.
AP contributed to this report.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan