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“Prebunking” Is the Best Way to Fight Fake News According to This Research

Fake news and information have been spreading like wildfire for the past five years or so, initiated by the rise of the controversial Donald Trump to the US presidency followed by the coronavirus pandemic that we knew so little about. Researchers Stephen Lewandowsky, Jon Roozenbeek and Sander Van Der Linden collaborated to an author an article published in Nieman Lab which shows a new technique for fighting fake news called prebunking.

Similarly to how fake news can be debunked after it has already started spreading, content creators can make engaging, short form content to preempt the misinformation before it gets the chance to become viral online. They created five videos all of which were quite short at under two minutes, and with all of that having been said and now out of the way it is important to note that these videos are meant to act as metaphorical vaccines against the pandemic of fake news.

They then showed these videos to around 6,400 study participants and found that those that watched the prebunking videos were a lot less susceptible to believing fake news with all things having been considered and taken into account. Participants who were exposed to prebunking videos were 5% to 10% more likely to spot fake news. That might seem low, but in spite of the fact that this is the case it is a definite step in the right direction.

These researchers referred to their methodology as the inoculation theory because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up accurately describing how exposing users to small doses of clear misinformation can help them spot it in the real world.

More research needs to be done before this can be rolled out and implemented widely, but one thing that is for certain is that this field is vital given the overexposure to media and information that people are currently going through. Media manipulation is becoming increasingly common, and research like this can help people to fight back against it and not get pulled in by false or misleading headlines.


Photo: Freepik/Redgreystock

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