Information Laundering: Interactive Lesson

I was recently reading “A Bible Burning, a Russian News Agency and a Story Too Good to Check Out“, an article dissecting the spread of an inauthentic narrative which framed participants of 2020 Black Lives Matter protesters as burning bibles en-masse. It talked about “information laundering”, a (very cool sounding) term which describes surreptitiously delivering information to an audience through a third party. This can allow aggressors to hijack and exploit the trust people have in a public figure (increasing the probability that a target audience will believe the proposed narrative), and can help obfuscate the source of information (so that researchers can’t figure out what stories aggressors are trying to get people to believe).

I made an interactive experience which mimicked the methods used in Bad News and Harmony Square, putting the user in the shoes of an aggressor looking to take advantage of information laundering while exploiting latent discord in the “does pineapple go on pizza” debate:

I’m pleased with the outcome! The overall turnaround to produce this was under 24 hours (from reading the article to producing the final product). If I were to spend more time on it I would try to include more “Q&A” sections (and obviously I’d like to be able to run some tests to confirm it helped improve peoples understanding of disinformation and (most importantly) that the jokes are actually funny).

If this kind of content did prove to be effective for immunising against disinformation, then we could realistically rapidly develop ‘vaccines’ for new techniques used by aggressors. I could see this lesson fitting into an intervention which tries to help protect people against misinformation, or one which tries to improve resilience to inauthentic content spread by public celebrities / influences (which happens a lot, and is becoming an increasing concern).

Do you have any feedback? Please let me know! I would love to build more of these if people think it could be useful.