“Debunking misinformation failed. Welcome to ‘pre-bunking’; Election officials around the world are adopting ‘prebunking’ campaigns, as AI and other threats jeopardize voting.”


Election officials and researchers from Arizona to Taiwan are adopting a radical playbook to stop falsehoods about voting before they spread online, amid fears that traditional strategies to battle misinformation are insufficient in a perilous year for democracies around the world.

Modeled after vaccines, these campaigns — dubbed “prebunking” — expose people to weakened doses of misinformation paired with explanations and are aimed at helping the public develop “mental antibodies” to recognize and fend off hoaxes in a heated election year.

In the run-up to next month’s European Union election, for example, Google and partner organizations are blanketing millions of voters with colorful cartoon ads on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram that teach common tactics used to propagate lies and rumors on social media or in email.

One 50-second animation features a fake news campaign in which “visiting tourists” are blamed for a “litter crisis.” The example is meant to educate voters about “scapegoating,” a disinformation technique that places unwarranted blame for a problem on a single person or group.

Google has no plans to launch such a campaign in the United States, where former president Donald Trump and his allies are spreading falsehoods about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, laying the groundwork to cast doubt on the results of Trump’s rematch with President Biden in November.

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