Pre-Bunking: The Social Media Censorship Crowd’s Latest Craze

Niall via Getty Images
Niall via Getty Images

In what must be the latest effort to “fortify” future elections, it seems that Big Tech is ablaze with the idea of “pre-bunking” —using a proactive campaign to pre-empt political narratives that could supposedly lead to disinformation.

On Wednesday, Google released a new study that claimed showing simple cartoons discussing things like how ad hominem attacks are bad could ward off gullible rubes from believing things that are not true, according to NBC News. The leaders of the study also found that changing which words are used to discuss facts could also lead to better results for those who want to control the narrative protect safe and secure elections.

“Words like ‘fact-checking’ themselves are becoming politicized, and that’s a problem, so you need to find a way around that,” Jon Roozenbeek, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge University’s Social Decision-Making Lab, told NBC.

So for example, instead of seeing an ad just prior to a YouTube video, individuals might see a cartoon for 10 seconds talking about a broad topic. The idea is to “inoculate” the viewer, similar to a vaccine, NBC News explained.

“Each video instantiates the inoculation procedure by first providing a forewarning of an impending misinformation attack, then issuing a preemptive refutation of the manipulation technique used in this attack, and lastly presenting a ‘microdose’ of misinformation in the form of innocuous and humorous examples (such as an example of incoherence from the animated television series Family Guy),” the study said.

“All examples are nonpolitical and fictitious, in addition to being humorous, to avoid any appearance of partisan bias and prevent triggering defensive motivated cognition,” the study claimed.

Google — which owns YouTube — does not have plans to use this sort of thing in the immediate future,  but Twitter does for the upcoming midterm election.

Earlier this month, the social media giant announced that it was “activating enforcement” steps to combat “harmful misleading information.” In the run-up to November 8, Twitter will be rolling out various measures, including blocking certain accounts from sharing links or content that the company deems false.

The way Twitter explained it is that it simply wants to “enable healthy civic conversation on Twitter, while ensuring people have the context they need to make informed decisions.”

Twitter wants to deploy pre-bunks “to get ahead of misleading narratives on Twitter, and to proactively address topics that may be the subject of misinformation.”

“Over the coming months, [Twitter will] place prompts directly on people’s timelines in the US and in Search when people type related terms, phrases, or hashtags,” Twitter announced.

Likewise, the social media company will be “educating” users on how to identify fake news.

“Keep an eye on @TwitterSafety for media literacy tips and suggestions, like how to spot misinformation, which were developed in partnership with educational experts,” Twitter said.

So for example — and believe me, I am just spitballing here — pretend there exists a news story about a presidential candidate’s son’s laptop being left at a hardware store in his home state. That laptop might be reportedly filled with thousands of lurid images and texts  — even showing potential family corruption including the presidential candidate.

Then let us say — I don’t know — 50-some-odd intelligence community officials sign a letter saying that the news story is fake and Russian disinformation.

In the past, perhaps social media giants might have blocked users from sharing that link or suspended others for repeated attempts.

Well, in the future, Big Tech might use a “pre-bunk” so you can spot Russian disinformation and in doing so discredit that story.

Now down the road, perhaps major legacy media companies get around to “verifying” the original story, but the online arbiters of truth will cross that bridge when we get to it.

That is one possibility of what the 2020 election future could look like.

Just remember, Big Tech isn’t in the censorship business. It is in the protecting democracy business and moving toward the pre-bunking business (wink, wink).

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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