Lessons learned: inoculating against misinformation

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Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of Bristol, and Google Jigsaw recently inoculated nearly 1 million YouTube users against misinformation. Their secret: “prebunking” videos designed to teach users how they may be manipulated online, for example by emotional language designed to stoke outrage or fear (Science Advances, 2022, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo6254).

What they learned: Watching one of the team’s 90-second prebunking videos helps people spot misinformation—not only in controlled experiments but also in the real world.

  • The team ran an ad campaign on YouTube to show its videos to around 1 million US YouTube users over the age of 18.
  • They then used YouTube’s BrandLift engagement tool to show that users who saw a prebunking video were 5-10% better than a control group at correctly identifying misinformation.

➡️ Idea worth stealing: Look to counter misinformation by preparing people to evaluate the reliability of information they encounter online.

Why it matters: Various tools have been designed to help people spot misinformation.  But few have been successfully delivered at scale, let alone in noisy online spaces such as YouTube.

What to watch: How long the “inoculation effect” persists, and how the team’s strategy translates to markets outside the US.