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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Google to launch anti-misinformation campaign ahead of EU elections

Google is gearing up for a comprehensive anti-misinformation initiative spanning five European Union countries ahead of the bloc's parliamentary elections. In June, EU citizens will elect a new European Parliament to oversee policy making in the region and lawmakers are concerned that malicious actors may use misinformation to manipulate voters.

France, Poland and Germany have already come out to accuse Russia of setting up an elaborate network of websites to spread pro-Russian propaganda.

The move by Google is also in anticipation of the Europe's Digital Services Act, which comes into force this week, and will require major online platforms and search engines to put more effort into tackling illegal content and risks to public security.

As part of its strategy, Google's Jigsaw unit will launch animated ad campaigns on platforms like TikTok and YouTube in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Poland. These ads, featuring innovative "prebunking" techniques were developed in collaboration with leading academic institutions, and aim to equip viewers with the skills to discern and counter manipulative content before encountering it.

Beth Goldberg, head of research at Jigsaw, emphasised the urgency of addressing the escalating polarization in public discourse, highlighting prebunking as a uniquely effective approach in bridging ideological divides.

Unlike traditional fact-checking methods that often follow the spread of misinformation, prebunking intervenes proactively, offering a promising avenue for fostering critical thinking and safeguarding democratic processes.

"We've spent so much time having these really polarised debates. Our democracy is at stake, and the temperature just keeps getting higher and higher," said Beth Goldberg, head of research at Jigsaw.

"Prebunking is the only technique, at least that I've seen, that works equally effectively across the political spectrum,"

The initiative comes in the wake of a recent investigation by the European Union External Action Service (EEAS), which identified hundreds of instances of deliberate misinformation campaigns. The campaigns were being used to amplify narratives that justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Recognizing the significance of language diversity within the EU, Google plans to translate its ad content into all 24 official languages of the union, ensuring broad accessibility across member states.

The campaign's duration will span at least one month, with potential extensions contingent upon its effectiveness and reach. Google intends to transparently share insights gleaned from the initiative, including survey responses and audience engagement metrics, in a report slated for publication in the summer of 2024.


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