These Psychologists Found a Better Way To Teach People To Spot Misinformation

A strong defense against online misinformation may be to administer a digital vaccine: Exposing yourself to common deception methods may help you recognize sensationalized headlines, misleading TikToks, or social media fabrications in the future. In collaboration with Google and its tech unit Jigsaw, a team of psychologists added short videos to YouTube’s ad lineup, educating people about how to spot common misinformation tactics.

In an online campaign, they found these clips were an effective way to get people to identify what’s real and what’s fake news. People who watched the videos were better able to identify misinformation techniques than those who didn’t see the clips, as the team reports in a study published in the journal Science Advances today.

“It’s very possible on social media to reduce vulnerability and susceptibility to being manipulated,” says Jon Roozenbeek, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the study. “Maybe not all misinformation, but you can demonstrably improve people’s ability to detect when they’re being manipulated online.”

Misinformation happens when people spread false information, even if it wasn’t the person’s intention to mislead others. Misinformation happens regularly in our daily lives, says Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist who was not affiliated with the study, and it can be something as small as misremembering something you saw on television and telling someone else the wrong information.

“You can think of it as analogous to the childhood game of ‘telephone,’” explains Romanoff, in which small errors become magnified through repetition. But through the megaphone of social media, wrong or misleading claims can become a harmful way to distort the truth.

Anyone can fall prey to misinformation online, Romanoff says, though people who click on a story consistent with their pre-established beliefs are more susceptible. Being prone to impulsivity and feeling an overload of information could also make you more likely to spread fake news.

The current study focuses on inoculation theory, where people learn about these types of misinformation techniques. Roozenbeek compares this theory to a vaccine: Introducing a weakened virus or virus-like material primes your immune system to recognize and destroy the pathogen in the future. Unlike fact-checking, which takes a more retroactive approach, inoculation theory stops people who are exposed to misinformation from spreading the content in the first place.

“The idea was to inoculate people against these tropes, because if someone can successfully recognize a false dichotomy in content they’ve never seen before, they’re more resilient to any use of that particular manipulation technique on social media,” Roozenbeek says.

Roozenbeek and his team created five 1.5 minute videos covering common tactics used in online misinformation. To avoid any bias towards one group of people, the videos were designed to be nonpolitical, fictitious, and humorous. In the lab, the team invited over 6,000 participants to randomly watch either a video showing how to identify misinformation techniques or a neutral video that acted as a control. Afterward, the participants were shown 10 made-up social media posts that were manipulative or neutral.

Roozenbeek then partnered with Google to expand the study. As part of a public ad campaign on YouTube, nearly 23,000 people watched one of two anti-misinformation videos. One video involved negative and exaggerated emotional language to encourage clicks and belief in fake news (Sample headline: “Baby formula linked to horrific outbreak of news, terrifying disease among helpless infants. Parents despair.”).

The other one relied on presenting two points of views or facts as the only available options (The headline: “Improving salaries for workers means businesses will go bankrupt. The choice is between small businesses and workers. It’s simple mathematics.”).

Within a day of seeing the video ads, one-third of people who watched the videos were randomly given a test question on YouTube where they were asked to identify the type of manipulation technique in a headline or sentence. People who watched the videos were better able to pick out misinformation techniques and misleading content.

“Finding a significant effect was actually quite surprising,” Roozenbeek says. This is because unlike a controlled laboratory setting, people on the internet can get easily distracted by other ads and videos. Additionally, there is no guarantee people actually watched the videos. While the videos were not allowed to be skipped, people could have turned off the sound or moved to another tab. “But despite all that, we still found a large and robust effect.”

Roozenbeek and other psychologists are wrapping up another study that looks into how long it takes for people to forget what they’ve learned from the videos. “It’s not reasonable to expect someone to watch a video once and remember the lesson for all eternity. Human memory doesn’t work that way,” he says.

Ongoing results suggest ‌people might need a ‘booster shot,’ in the form of repeated video reminders. Another project in the works will use Twitter to see how watching these videos affects people’s behaviors, specifically how much they retweet misleading content.

To stay vigilant against misinformation as you scroll through the internet, Romanoff warns about these six common tactics:

  • Fabricated content: Completely false or made-up stories
  • Manipulated content: Information is intentionally distorted to fit a person’s agenda
  • Misleading content: A person deceives others, such as presenting an opinion as a fact
  • False context of connection: A person strings together facts to fit the narrative they are trying to convey, such as new stories using real images to create a false narrative of what happened
  • Satire content: A person creates false but comical stories as if they were true
  • Imposter content: A story is created through the branding and appearance of a legitimate news story, but is false such someone creating a video using someone else’s logo to seem legitimate

Source: It’s possible to inoculate yourself against misinformation | Popular Science

Related News:

Google Wants To Fix Its Search Engine’s Misinformation Problem

In 2014, if you were to Google “King of the United States,” you would have seen a picture of Barack Obama, yelling passionately into a microphone while at a podium. That’s not true, of course. But Google proclaimed it with authority after surfacing a Breitbart article entitled, “All Hail King Barack Obama, Emperor Of The United States of America!”

The episode highlights how clumsy Google can be with snippets, search results that the company elevates to the top of the page as a definitive answer to a query. The problem has persisted throughout the years, with Google stating plainly that certain presidents were in the KKK, or that women are evil.

Google on Thursday unveiled a handful of new features aimed at combating these kinds of falsehoods on its search engine, one of the most widely used information tools on the planet. Far from its origins as a simple website that listed 10 links as search results, Google is now a sprawling and cluttered site that highlights news stories, tweets, maps, hotel bookings, and more. As the site has grown — and as misinformation peddlers have become more sophisticated — the search engine has become more vulnerable to spreading lies and wrong information.

“In recent years, the growth of misinformation has become even more of a pressing challenge for us as a society,” Pandu Nayak, a vice president of search at Google, told reporters on Wednesday. “We can only deliver on our mission if we can deliver high quality results.”

Google said it would use its artificial intelligence systems to improve search snippets. The company will use machine learning software, called MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, to check information across multiple reliable sources that agree on the same facts. The process will allow the system to come to a general consensus, Google said, even if the sources don’t phrase the information in the same way.

The company is also expanding its “About this result” feature, originally released last year, to include more context about search results. In addition to seeing a short description of the website or company and when the result was indexed, people will now also see more granular information about the result. For example, it will tell you if a company is owned by another entity.

On the flip side, if Google can’t find much information about a result, it will disclose that as well. The company is also launching “About this result” in more languages, including Spanish, German and Indonesian.

Google is also updating its “content advisories,” which it displays usually during breaking news situations, like a mass shooting or natural disaster, when the situation is developing rapidly and not much information is available. Now, in addition to telling people when information is scarce, it will also warn people when information is available but may be unreliable, based on Google’s ranking system for search results.

The new features underscore the ongoing and escalating battle that tech giants are fighting against purveyors of misinformation. The problem will only become more heightened as the United States turns to midterm elections later this year. Google, along with Facebook and Twitter, has been under fire for years for having its platforms exploited when it comes to conspiracy theories, Covid-19 information and extremism.

None of the updates, however, apply to YouTube, which Google also owns, and has long been a major culprit in the spread of misinformation. “Their problem is a little bit different than ours in search,” Pandu said, noting that YouTube hosts content and uses a personalized feed. “We don’t work on YouTube directly, and YouTube doesn’t work on us directly.”

I’m a Forbes technology reporter and senior writer based in San Francisco. Send me tips at rnieva@forbes.com or richardnieva@protonmail.com.

Source: Google Wants To Fix Its Search Engine’s Misinformation Problem

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The Major Concerns Around Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition software has become increasingly popular in the past several years. It is used everywhere from airports, venues, shopping centers and even by law enforcement. While there are a few potential benefits to using the technology to prevent and solve crimes, there are many concerns about the privacy, safety and legislation regarding the use of the technology.

Facial recognition technology uses a database of photos, such as mugshots and driver’s license photos to identify people in security photos and videos. It uses biometrics to map facial features and help verify identity through key features of the face. The most key feature is the geometry of a face such as the distance between a person’s eyes and the distance from their forehead to their chin. This then creates what is called a “facial signature.” It is a mathematical formula that is then compared to a database of known faces.

The market for this technology is growing exponentially. According to a research report “Facial Recognition Market” by Component, the facial recognition industry is expected to grow $3.2 billion in 2019 to $7.0 billion by 2024 in the U.S. The most significant uses for the technology being for surveillance and marketing. This, however, raises concerns for many people.

The main reason for concerns amongst citizens is the lack of federal regulations surrounding the use of facial recognition technology. Many are worried about how accurate the technology is and if there are biases and misinformation in these technologies. One issue, for example, is that the technology has been proven in multiple studies to be inaccurate at identifying people of color, especially black women.Another major concern is the use of facial recognition for law enforcement purposes. Today, many police departments in the U.S., including New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Orlando, have begun utilizing the technology. According to a May 2018 report, the FBI has access to 412 million facial images for searches.

Not only is this a concern with the possibility of misidentifying someone and leading to wrongful convictions, it can also be very damaging to our society by being abused by law enforcement for things like constant surveillance of the public. Currently, the Chinese government is already using facial recognition to arrest jaywalkers and other petty crimes that cause debate amongst what is considered basic civil rights and privacy issues versus protecting the public. Accuracy and accountability are necessary when it comes to the use of technology, especially regarding the justice system.

The concerns have not gone unnoticed by politicians and many cities have started to create legislation around these issues. Oregon and New Hampshire have banned the use of facial recognition in body cameras for police officers. California cities, such as San Francisco and Oakland, and some cities in Massachusetts have outlawed certain uses of facial recognition technology for city officials including law enforcement.

The Utah Department of Public Safety has also put forth some bans on the use of facial recognition for active criminal cases. Law enforcement in Utah claim that the use of facial recognition software helps keep dangerous criminals off the streets, but advocates say that there is no checks and balances when it comes to the system. Recent pushes from Portland, Oregon show that they are soon to follow suit.

The latest legislation push to put limitations on facial recognition technology is a California bill, AB 1215, also referred to as the Body Camera Accountability Act. This bill will temporarily stop California law enforcement from adding face and other biometric surveillance technology to officer-worn body cameras for use against the public in California.

According to the ACLU of Southern California, “AB 1215 is a common-sense bill that rightly concludes that keeping our communities safe doesn’t have to come at the expense of our fundamental freedoms. We should all be able to safely live our lives without being watched and targeted by the government.”

Governor Gavin Newsom must decide whether or not to sign it into law by October 13. If he does, it will go into effect in January.
Law enforcement isn’t the only issue with the technology that is of concern. U.S. Customs and Border Protection in partnership with Delta have added facial scanning to the Atlanta airport’s Concourse E, its Detroit hub, boarding gates in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, and this month to Los Angeles International Airport. The use of this technology causes concerns about how much people are being watched and if hackers can access this data causing more harm than good.

An activist group called Fight for the Future said facial recognition is an invasive technology that can be used for surveillance.

“Facial recognition really doesn’t have a place in society,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. “It’s deeply invasive, and from our perspective, the potential harm to society and human liberties far outweigh the potential benefits.”

With the vast number of concerns and privacy issues surrounding facial recognition software and its use, cities around the U.S. will face more dilemmas as they attempt to tackle these issues. AI and facial recognition technology are only growing and they can be powerful and helpful tools when used correctly, but can also cause harm with privacy and security issues. Lawmakers will have to balance this and determine when and how facial technology will be utilized and monitor the use, or in some cases abuse, of the technology.

Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Nicole Martin is the owner of NR Digital Consulting and host of Talk Digital To Me Podcast. She has worked in many different industries on customer

Source: The Major Concerns Around Facial Recognition Technology

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Twitter Will Add Warning Label to Tweets it Deems ‘Viral Misinformation’

Twitter recently announced its new “crisis misinformation policy” which will seek to suppress posts the company deems “viral misinformation.” The update will allow Twitter employees to label, and censor posts they determine to be misleading or false. The company claimed that the new tools will only be used in the case of a “humanitarian crisis.”

“Today, we’re introducing our crisis misinformation policy – a global policy that will guide our efforts to elevate credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises,” Twitter wrote in a blog post Thursday. “In times of crisis, misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities.”

Twitter went on to define such crises as “situations in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence.”“This definition is consistent with the United Nations’ definition of a humanitarian crisis and other humanitarian assessments,” the company added.Hoax tweets and other misinformation regularly go viral during emergencies, as users rush to share unverified information. The sheer speed of events makes it difficult to implement normal verification or fact-checking systems, creating a significant challenge for moderators.

As part of its new “misinformation policy”, Twitter will employ a variety of tools, including the removal tweets from recommendations and disabling engagement on “misleading” posts. In addition to a label, users will not be able to like, retweet or reply to flagged tweets.“To reduce potential harm, as soon as we have evidence that a claim may be misleading, we won’t amplify or recommend content that is covered by this policy across Twitter – including in the Home timeline, Search, and Explore,” Twitter explained.

“In addition, we will prioritize adding warning notices to highly visible Tweets and Tweets from high profile accounts, such as state-affiliated media accounts, verified, official government accounts.”Under the new policy, tweets classified as misinformation will not necessarily be deleted or banned; instead, Twitter will add a warning label requiring users to click a button before the tweet can be displayed (similar to the existing labels for explicit imagery).

The tweets will also be blocked from algorithmic promotion.The stronger standards are meant to be limited to specific events. Twitter will initially apply the policy to content concerning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the company expects to apply the rules to all emerging crises going forward.

For the purposes of the policy, crisis is defined as “situations in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence.”The policy comes at a delicate time for Twitter, with the company’s approved sale to Elon Musk in a confusing limbo.

Musk has pledged to scale back moderation systems at the company in favor of a maximalist view of free speech. But with Musk claiming the deal is on hold pending a bot investigation, it’s unclear when or how his ideas will be implemented.The social media giant infamously flagged the New York Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story just weeks before the election.In order to suppress the story — which included emails, text messages, photos and financial documents detailing foreign business dealings of the Biden family — Twitter cited its “hacked materials” policy. This policy, like many sections of Twitter’s terms of service, has been applied selectively on numerous occasions.

In a recent example, an illegally obtained list of donations to Canada’s Freedom Convoy protesters was allowed to be freely shared on the platform. The list included names, addresses and phone numbers of anyone who donated as little as $25 to the protest movement. Despite the fact that the information was obtained through a hack, Twitter took no action.Many believe Twitter’s “crisis misinformation policy” will be yet another policy that is selectively applied to conservatives.

This would give the San Francisco-based platform even more power to meddle in election outcomes, as they did in 2020. A poll conducted by The Post Millennial this past March found that 16% of Biden voters would not have voted for him if they were aware of the laptop scandal.

Source: Twitter Will Add Warning Label to Tweets it Deems ‘Viral Misinformation’

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Don’t Panic, What Parents Really Need To Know About ‘Huggy Wuggy’

You may have seen the growing number of articles about the Huggy Wuggy character from horror survival game Poppy Playtime. Similar the Momo Challenge stories, this is usually accompanied with a scary blue character with red lips and sharp teeth and warnings about the upsetting or harmful impact on children.

However, no evidence has been reported that links back to the game itself. Rather, warnings from head teachers and Police have led to misinformation about the content of the game and potential impact on children.

Most of the panic surrounds related content created on TikTok and YouTube that features the game characters in unsettling scenarios. One of these video included a song, Free Hugs, with lyrics “Cause I could just hug you here. Forever, forever. Till you breathe your last breath.”

If you are a parent or guardian concerned about this, it’s important to understand the game before you delete it from children’s devices. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, it’s a chance to talk to your child about the content and then make an informed decision about it with them.

Poppy Playtime Age Rating

The game itself is a scary experience designed to thrill and unsettle. It has been rated as suitable for 13 year-olds by ESRB and for 12 year-olds by PEGI. This includes descriptors for Violence, Blood from ESRB and Moderate Violence and Horror from PEGI.

The VSC Rating Board, extend the PEGI rating by stating “this game features a sense of threat and dread throughout as the player’s character explores an abandoned factory. In one intense sequence, the player’s character is pursued by a monster, including through a series of dark air vents. In another sequence, a heavy box is dropped onto a fantasy character, causing it to fall from a height. Blood appears on some pipes that the character strikes as it falls.”

This applies to the game itself rather than any fan created content. There are also unofficial fan made versions of the game on Roblox (Poppy Playtime Morphs) which do not fall under the remit of ESRB or PEGI as they are user generated content.

Taking care to understand the actual source of potentially upsetting content is important for parents. Not only so we can ensure that the settings on our children’s social media and video accounts are appropriately configured, but to ensure we don’t over react to what is a popular game.

The real danger is that stories about Poppy Playtime and the Huggy Wuggy character spiral out of control like the Momo Challenge. We’ve already seen reports eager to connect the scary Huggy Wuggy character to children jumping out of windows or breath holding playground games.

This leads to a muddled response to actual concerns children have. Banning a child from a game they are enjoying because of a related video makes it much less likely for them to talk to parents if something genuinely upsetting happens online.

The real danger with this panicked response is that it separates parents from the gaming world of their child. Much better, is to use rating advice and to play the game ourselves. We can then be present in the gaming world of our children and provide informed guidance.

Poppy Playtime Creator

I spoke to Zach Belanger, President and CEO of Enchanted Mob who made the Poppy Playtime game. I asked who the game was aimed at. “Poppy Playtime was not created with the intention to target any specific audience. Bear in mind that this was the first game our studio ever created, and our main priority was to create something that we would enjoy playing ourselves.

Beyond that, we have a passion for any content we create to be enjoyable by audiences of all ages. To us, it isn’t accurate to say that we created Poppy Playtime to be consumed by kids or adults, but rather our goal was simply to inspire and entertain anyone who decided to play the game.”

With this in mind, I wondered if the warnings from schools had come as a surprise? “The vast majority of the controversy we are seeing regarding warnings from schools about the Huggy Wuggy character are completely untrue and/or grossly exaggerated.

One of the things we’ve read online is that Huggy Wuggy whispers creepy things into one’s ear while playing, but anyone who has actually played Poppy Playtime would know that Huggy Wuggy does not even have a voice in Chapter 1, so it’s impossible for him to have whispered anything.”

“As far as we are aware, all of these warnings from schools are originating from fan made content based off of our game, but if you want my personal opinion, I do not think that any of these videos should be cause for concern, and we appreciate all the hard work and dedication our fans are put toward creating content inspired off of Poppy Playtime.”

Huggy Wuggy Song Creator

The creator of one of the more popular pieces of fan content was Igor Gordiyenko who is TryHardNinja on YouTube. He created the controversial Huggy Wuggy song that has around 5 million views.

I asked what the inspiration for the song and reason for the lyrics. “I wrote the song inspired by the story and lore of Huggy Wuggy from the game Poppy Playtime. In the game the player investigates a toy factory in which all the employees disappeared and some of the toys that used to be developed there have become sinister killer monsters. Huggy Wuggy is one of the antagonist monsters in the game.

The jingle in the game and game’s soundtrack has the lyrics, ‘He’ll squeeze you ‘til you pop’. I thought it would be creative to take the original jingle which mentions hugging forever and make it into a more obvious sinister version to be truer to his new sinister persona following the event the game.”

I asked what he made of the response to the song and the warnings that were appearing in headlines. “As a father, I completely understand the concern. I didn’t intentionally make the song to scare young kids. It’s a song based on a monster from the indie horror game Poppy Playtime rated for teens and up. My video is targeted to the same audience.”

“The themes and visuals of my song and video are true to the character’s lore, actions and depiction in the game. I am not trying to make an innocent character seem scarier than they are. Much like Chucky from Child’s Play, Huggy Wuggy is and always was a horror character. My song is for fans of the source material which is not for young kids.”

I asked him what he had done to ensure that younger children didn’t have access to the video. “As a YouTube creator I have done everything in my power to make sure the video is not served to kids younger than 13. Since the moment of upload the video has been marked “Not made for kids.”

Since reports of the song being served on YouTube Kids started about a month ago I have been doing my own periodical sweeps of that platform and I have never found that video or song. I understand how my video being recommended to young kids would be concerning and inappropriate, but all evidence points to the previous reports saying that it’s on YouTube Kids to being false.”

What advice would he have for parents if they were worried about children finding the song and being upset by it? “As a parent, if even after making sure I’ve done everything I could to filter out this content and it still gets through, I would sit with my child and talk to them about what they saw, their feelings and reassure them that Huggy Wuggy is a made up character that can’t hurt them.”

Keeping Children Safe

Rather than warning children about specific dangers such as Momo or Huggy Wuggy, parents and professionals can better help children by teaching them good practices online.

Fostering an atmosphere of openness and transparency about online activity ensures that children can thrive. If you do notice them switching screens on their devices when approached or new numbers or email addresses on their devices it’s worth checking in with them.

Keep video games and YouTube watching in shared family spaces. In video games, you can also set-up restrictions on friends and accessing user generate content that may include Poppy Playtime themed add ons. Also, ensure you have Restricted mode on for your child’s account this content is not available to them.

I am a technology critic specializing in families. I’ve recently written the Taming Gaming book for parents and related Family Video Game Database. I write for

Source: Don’t Panic, What Parents Really Need To Know About ‘Huggy Wuggy’

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