Who better than Google to “uphold technology as a force for good” – all joking aside, but that is exactly how the tech behemoth presents Jigsaw, its unit that “explores threats to open societies, and builds technology that inspires scalable solutions.”
According to a blog post, the latest such solution is “the largest prebunking experiment on social media to date” launched in September, with the goal of “countering the threat of disinformation.” Speaking of jigsaws – this also appears to be a piece in the puzzle that is the fierce “war on disinformation” that is being waged by Big Tech and traditional media.
“Prebunking” could be described as “precrime's little cousin” – it means debunking what is deemed to be lies, tactics or sources before they happen/can act. Developing effective ways to do this can be a force for good – or evil, and so given its track record with censorship, Google (via Jigsaw) conducting this kind of experiment is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
Perhaps to make the whole thing more palatable, Jigsaw tied this effort to an actual war – that in Ukraine – and explains the need to test “prebunking” techniques as a way to protect refugees.
Related: Google to introduce behavioral “interventions”
One would think that once out of a war zone, people are at least safe – but not according to Google's unit, which writes that even hundreds of miles from the front lines, now in various European countries, Ukrainian refugees “face ongoing threats to their safety.”
It is further asserted that the threat comes from Russia targeting these refugees with disinformation campaigns – such as disseminating claims that the 4.9 million newly arrived people represent a burden on the European taxpayers, as well as to their “health and identity.”
Jigsaw says that false stories to this effect have appeared as videos and images – and this is then blamed for dozens of attacks on refugee centers in countries such as Germany.
So the Google lab used this opportunity to trial new ways of “countering the threat of disinformation.”
“Jigsaw developed a series of six short videos prebunking then emerging disinformation narratives and the rhetorical tactics used to press them. These narratives were identified through interviews we conducted with experts in Poland, Czechia, and Slovakia, including Demagog, the Polish National Research Institute NASK, and One World in Schools,” the blog post says, adding:
“Two videos, each prebunking a different narrative, ran across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok in each of the three countries.”
“Ultimately, we found the share of viewers who could correctly identify misinformation tactics increased by as much as 8 percentage points after viewing one of these videos,” reveals Jigsaw.
India and Germany are the next planned “testing grounds,” while the Google unit concludes that, “Learnings from this campaign — including efforts to simplify critical messages and iteration on the survey questions to effectively measure knowledge gain — will inform our future experiments as we seek to better understand the effectiveness of prebunking in the wild.”