Access and Feeds

Social Media: Is There a Vaccine Against Misinformation?

By Dick Weisinger

Misinformation funneled through social media has run rampant and become a serious problem. Most Americans feel that misinformation is a major threat, according to a survey by the Pew Center.

The solution to social-media misinformation isn’t fact checking. “The word fact checking itself has become politicized,” said Jon Roozenbeek, a Cambridge University professor, as reported by AP News. Fact checking simply entrenches people further in their strong beliefs. Those who agree with the fact checkers see validation, and those who don’t distrust the fact-report results see further evidence that the media is biased and attempting to mislead.

Researchers at Google suggest that a technique called ‘pre-bunking’ is a technique that educates people before they’ve solidified and dug into believing a particular viewpoint. The idea is to help people be able to identify techniques commonly used for spreading misinformation.

The Google study found that “watching short inoculation videos improves people’s ability to identify manipulation techniques commonly used in online misinformation, both in a laboratory setting and in a real-world environment where exposure to misinformation is common.” The researchers found that watching 90-second videos works like a vaccine because it innoculates people to misinformation by increasing their awareness.

The results of an experiment that ran the short videos on Youtube found that “the inoculation effect was consistent across liberals and conservatives. It worked for people with different levels of education, and different personality types. This is the basis of a general inoculation against misinformation.”

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