It’s an approach called “pre-bunking” and it builds on years of research into an idea known as inoculation theory that suggests exposing people to how misinformation works, using harmless, fictional examples, can boost their defenses to false claims.— David Klepper, AP

I read about pre-bunking in an article by David Klepper written for the Associated Press. Google reportedly plans to vaccinate us against misinformation with pre-bunking. Pre-bunking teaches generically about misinformation to make us more resistant to it. Short videos demonstrate common misinformation techniques, much like reading Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon might do, for those who do that. Because only fictional examples of misinformation are used, viewers’ beliefs aren’t directly threatened.

I am dubious; in my opinion:

  • Even when the pre-bunking videos pop up like ads, many would not watch.
  • The difference between misinformation and opinion can be vague. If a politician makes an unsupported wild claim which spreads, government spending causes inflation for example, that might not be seen by many as misinformation.
  • Those who want to believe lies would not change their minds.
  • Those knowingly spreading misinformation wouldn’t stop.

Nevertheless, research is said to show pre-bunking is effective. David Keppler writes:

Pre-bunking videos, however, don’t target specific claims, and they make no assertions about what is true or not. Instead, they teach the viewer how false claims work in general — whether it’s a claim about elections or NASA’s moon landings, or the latest outbreak of the avian flu.

I think many are already aware of misinformation techniques such as misleading headlines, fighting words, personal attacks or false equivalence between two unrelated items. Yet such techniques must be effective as political actors use them again and again.

Reportedly Google plans to test pre-bunking videos in Europe, where misinformation about Ukrainian refugees is rampant. I hope it works.


About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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