A guide to prebunking: a promising way to inoculate against misinformation
As they start their careers, doctors swear to uphold the Hippocratic Oath. If people tackling misinformation were to establish an equivalent oath, we should make sure to borrow one of the original’s phrases: “Prevention is preferable to cure.”
As with medicine, so with misinformation: It is better to prevent misinformation from spreading at all than to try to debunk it once it’s spread.
Here’s why. Debunks don’t reach as many people as misinformation, and they don’t spread nearly as quickly. If they do reach us, they generally struggle to erase the misinformation from our debates or our brains. Even when we’ve been told that the misinformation is false, research suggests it continues to influence our thinking.
So it helps to take a page from medicine: Prevention, not cure, may be a more effective way to combat misinformation.
Understanding how prebunks work (and how they don’t) is essential for reporters, fact checkers, policy makers and platforms.