Google’s Jigsaw subsidiary will launch a campaign next week to tackle disinformation in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic about Ukrainian refugees based on research by psychologists at two British universities.
Working with Jigsaw, the psychologists from the universities of Cambridge and Bristol have produced 90-second clips designed to “inoculate” people against harmful content on social media.
The clips, which will run in advertising slots on Google’s YouTube and also on other platforms such as Twitter TikTok and Meta’s Facebook, aim to help people identify emotional manipulation and scapegoating in a news headline.
“If you tell people what’s true and false, a lot of people will dispute … but what you can predict are the techniques that will be used in spreading misinformation, like with the Ukrainian crisis,” Jon Roozenbeek, lead author of a report on the research behind the campaign, said in an interview.
The research was spread over seven experiments, including with a group of Americans over 18 years old who watch political news on YouTube. Jigsaw exposed around 5.4 million US YouTubers to an inoculation video, with almost a million watching for at least 30 seconds.
The campaign is designed to build resilience to anti-refugee narratives, in partnership with local non-government organisations, fact-checkers, academics, and disinformation experts.
The spread of misleading and fake information in the United States and Europe through social media networks has led to various governments pushing for new laws to stem disinformation campaigns.
“We are thinking of this as a pilot experiment, so there’s absolutely no reason that this approach couldn’t be scaled to other countries,” Beth Goldberg, head of research at Jigsaw, said in an interview.
“Poland was chosen because it has the most Ukrainian refugees,” she said, adding the Czech Republic and Slovakia would be useful bellwethers for the rest of Europe.
The campaign will run for one month.