« Google’s Jigsaw subsidiary will launch a campaign next week to tackle disinformation in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic about Ukrainian refugees based on research by psychologists at two British universities. Working with Jigsaw, the psychologists from the universities of Cambridge and Bristol have produced 90-second clips designed to “inoculate” people against harmful content on social media. »
Reuters & the Guardian are too shy to say so, but the Bristol academic is none other than Stephan Lewandowsky, co-author of this paper in Science Advances, journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science : « Psychological inoculation improves resilience against misinformation on social media, » which is the basis for the Google campaign. As you’d expect, the paper cites a couple of other papers by Lewandowsky, including this one:
That’s the one in which Lewandowsky, Cook & Lloyd prove that climate sceptics are incapable of rational thought because Christopher Booker once said something different from Senator Imhofe.
The point of the Google campaign seems to be to stop people from believing that some Ukrainian refugees are freeloading in their host countries. What a responsible media organisation would do in this situation would be to send a journalist to the countries concerned to find out if it’s true that some Ukrainian refugees are driving round in expensive cars, that shoplifting has caused some shops to put up “no Ukrainians” signs etc. What Google has done is to hire psychologists to show people “five short videos that inoculate people against manipulation techniques commonly used in misinformation.»
I watched this one on “incoherence,” because that was the subject tackled in the Lewandowsky “Alice” paper. As you can see, it’s dreadful. A grating American voice gabbles something while texts saying something else pop up on the screen and disappear. I challenge anyone with a reasonable IQ to understand it. You’d have to be a professor at Cambridge or Bristol to make any sense of it.
Information videos are not exactly cutting edge propaganda techniques. I used to test stuff like this for the Central Office of Information forty years ago, when the government wanted to persuade you to fasten your seat belt, or join the army, or whatever. This campaign would be thrown out before it left the ad agency.
But hey, this is only Google hiring British academics from top universities to tell Eastern Europeans what to think about a war we’re conducting on their borders. Maybe it’ll sound better once it’s translated into Slovak.