Google Expands its War on ‘Misinformation’
Is ‘prebunking’ about fake news or something more insidious?
This article was originally published on Liberty Nation.
The misinformation (or disinformation) field has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Forces in American society have been using these terms as a pretext for suppressing certain viewpoints on Big Tech platforms. Now, the world’s largest and most-used search engine company is getting deeper into the game.
Proponents of this endeavor have tried a series of methods to tackle the “problem” of what they call misinformation but now it appears they may have found a new favored strategy: Prebunking.
The effort against supposed misinformation has transformed from a left-wing media talking point to a full-blown government-sponsored initiative to combat information inconvenient to the state’s objectives. In addition, various private organizations have positioned themselves as champions against false information being propagated on the internet.
To put it simply, prebunking is a practice ostensibly designed to “inoculate” people against the spread of misinformation on digital platforms. Rather than publishing information to expose supposedly false claims, it relies on conditioning individuals to view certain types of arguments as fake news even before they encounter them.
This objective is accomplished through the use of strategic videos, ads, and even online games like Cat Park, which is funded by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) to crack down on the impact of populism on foreign elections.
Google, through its Jigsaw unit, has been one of the entities at the forefront of the prebunking initiative, As Just the News reported:
“After experimenting on Americans and Eastern Europeans last year, Google is expanding a program to ‘inoculate’ YouTube users against purported misinformation and disinformation to Europe’s largest economy and the world’s soon-to-be biggest country.”
The Alphabet-owned company gave the Associated Press a preview of its ‘prebunking’ initiative’s expansion into Germany, which will focus on the ease of presenting photos and videos as “evidence of something false.”
Jigsaw, according to its website, “explores threats to open societies and builds technology that inspires scalable solutions.” The unit seeks to achieve this goal by seeking “high-impact interventions, where focusing on helping a specific group of people – journalists, civil society, or activists, for example – makes the internet and society stronger and safer for everyone.”
The Associated Press pointed to the problem that Jigsaw and other organizations wish to solve. “While belief in falsehoods and conspiracy theories isn’t new, the speed and reach of the internet has given them a heightened power,” AP noted. “When catalyzed by algorithms, misleading claims can discourage people from getting vaccines, spread authoritarian propaganda, foment distrust in democratic institutions and spur violence.”
The report touted the technique, explaining that prebunking videos “are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can be seen by millions when placed on popular platforms.”
Does Prebunking Work?
The prebunking method seems to have already shown promise after having been tested in the United States. The University of Cambridge, Social Decision-Making Lab collaborated with Jigsaw to give the method a try. It exposed about 5.4 million American YouTube users to videos that were watched by almost one million people for at least 30 seconds.
Just the News noted: “YouTube then gave a ‘random 30%’ of those viewers and a control group that didn’t watch the video a test question within 24 hours. The former’s ‘ability to recognize manipulation techniques at the heart of misinformation increased by 5% on average,’ far greater than the typical 1% ‘brand lift’ from advertising on YouTube, the lab said.”
The group repeated the experiment in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, which yielded similar results.
Google Expands the Program
Google announced its intention to expand its efforts to combat misinformation on its German policy blog. “The tech giant plans to release a series of short videos highlighting the techniques common to many misleading claims,” says the Associated Press. “The videos will appear as advertisements on platforms like Facebook, YouTube or TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in India is also in the works.”
To make matters even more problematic, Google is not pursuing this mission on its own. In fact, the company, like several other organizations, is colluding with the federal government to this end. Just the News noted that the search engine company and the state have “deep connections” through Jared Cohen, a former member of the Department of State’s Policy Planning Committee.
After having served as an advisor to Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, he landed at Google in 2010 to launch what would later become Jigsaw in 2016. It is part of a larger collaboration with the state to shape the dissemination of information worldwide.
GEC established a location in Silicon Valley in 2019 that has supposedly “resulted in identifying, exposing, and defending against foreign adversarial propaganda and disinformation” by engaging in “quarterly syncs with major companies.”
Mike Benz, a former State Department official, told Just the News that prebunking is comparable to the plot of the dystopian thriller “Minority Report” in which law enforcement apprehended “precrime” suspects – meaning people were arrested and convicted for offenses they had not yet committed. He said the practice is “usually a form of narrative censorship integrated into social media algorithms to stop citizens from forming specific social and political belief systems.”
Jeremy Knauff, publicist and founder of Spartan Media, told Liberty Nation that the prebunking initiative is part of Google’s effort “to control public perception on certain topics” and that the company is “nothing more than a multi-billion-dollar activist organization masquerading as an impartial business.” He continued:
“Today, the search juggernaut is continuing to actively and aggressively censor content, organizations, and people that don’t align with the company’s beliefs. In fact, Google has even ramped up its efforts with a ‘Minority Report’ style approach to ‘pre-bunking’ information it deems inappropriate, driven by AI, to censor content on a global scale.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to see how dangerous it is to have a monopolistic company that’s unaccountable to the public, enforcing its views on citizens,” he added. “Especially while it’s often doing the bidding of, and being protected by, the government.”
Google is one of the most influential digital entities on the face of the Earth. Now, it is working with the most powerful government in the world to mold people’s opinions on important issues.
The situation was already fraught with peril when these actors were focused primarily on “debunking” viewpoints and information that went against the narrative the left sought to promote. But the cold hard truth of the matter is that now, Google and the US government are actively working together on the means to condition people to automatically dismiss opinions that don’t align with progressive objectives.
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