Media giant YouTube intends to run a pilot study educating users of the platform on how to identify fake news stories, following a successful experiment in the UK.
Researchers at Cambridge University found that videos improved people’s ability to recognise manipulative content, prompting the decision to show ads that ‘prebunks’ disinformation before people are exposed to it.
After watching the explanatory videos, researchers found an improvement in respondents’ ability to spot disinformation techniques, an increased ability to discern trustworthy from untrustworthy content, and an improved ability to decide whether or not to share content
The peer-reviewed research was conducted in conjunction with Google, which owns YouTube, and will be published in the journal Science Advances.
Speaking to the BBC, Jon Roozenbeek, the lead author on the paper, said: “Obviously you can’t predict every single example of misinformation that’s going to go viral, but what you can do is find common patterns and tropes.
“The idea behind this study was – if we find a couple of these tropes, is it possible to make people more resilient against them, even in content they’ve never seen before?”
After trialling the videos in controlled conditions, the scientists then released them onto the YouTube platform displaying them as ordinary ads would before a video played.
Professor Sander van der Linden, who co-authored the study, added: “It’s important for kids to learn how to do lateral reading and check the veracity of sources, but we also need solutions that can be scaled on social media and interface with their algorithms.
“At the end of the day, we have to face reality, in that social media companies control much of the flow of information online. So, in order to protect people, we have come up with independent, evidence-based solutions that social media companies can actually implement on their platforms.
“Leaving social media companies to their own devices is not going to generate the type of solutions that empower people to discern misinformation that spreads on their platforms.”
The ads will be shown in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland to combat fake news about Ukrainian refugees.
The announcement comes after a slew of initiatives by social media giants including TikTok which earlier this month said it was to educate its influencers on its rules ahead of the upcoming US midterm elections.