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DROG Intervention Model

Disinformation adapts. Consequences evolve. Paradigms shift. Next-generation interventions emerge.

The last decade has brought to life an economy of counter-measures - both good and bad. To understand the progress in the field of counter-disinformation, we've categorized a number of generations in what we call the DROG Disinformation Intervention Model (DROG DIM).

Strategic Communication

Gen 1 - 2012

ISIS recruiting

Deficit Model: Education

"If only the gullible masses had more access to proper information the world would be a better place." Solution: information campaigns. 

Countering foreign interference and ISIS recruitment efforts, fighting like with like. Engaging NGOs and civil society as the first line of defence against propaganda with only donations and some project funding. Involvement of Military Intelligence 

Perceived Problem: Foreign interference

Interventions

  • Coordinated StratCom
  • Building networks
  • Support independent journalism
  • Think tank reports
  • News literacy (informational)

DROG has created classroom materials to help school kids see how dinformation works. 

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Debunking

Gen 2 - 2014

Populist winning elections

Deficit Model: Information

"If only journalists could expose and debunk non-facts and force-feed proper facts the world would be a better place. " Soluion: debunking.

The rise of so-called Big Disinfo, an amalgam of data-scientists and journalists demanding public funds to "correct" facts. Engaging professions for which facts somewhat matter to think about what would mass persuade an average Joe.

Perceived problem: Truth decay

Interventions

  • Topical rebuttals
  • (1st and 3rd party) Fact-checking
  • Labeling (Automated)
  • High-level expert groups
  • EDMO

DROG organized an election monitoring agency to detect inauthentic behaviour like bots, brigading and flooding without tracking normal people. 

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Prebunking

Gen 3 - 2018

End of Status Quo

Deficit Model: Rationality
"If only we could expose dishonest reasoning and lazy fallacies with games and TV shows the world would be a better place." Solution: prebunking.

Market operators are taking over from NGOs, universities and traditional media organisations. Effectiveness studies into large-scale interventions. Technique rebuttal often works better than topic rebuttal. Science denial, conspiracies and disinformation have a lot in common. 

Perceived problem: Manipulation of vulnerabilities

Interventions

  • Technique rebuttals
  • Applied inoculation
  • Accuracy priming
  • Multiplayer prebunking
  • CIB detection
  • Media literacy (psychological) 
  • Boosting

DROG has made viral multiplayer games in 20+ languages. DROG has done impact effectiveness studies.

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Denial of Service

Gen 4 - 2020

Deplatforming Antivaxx

Deficit Model: Moderators

"If only we could weed-out, downrank, tax, sue, label, deplatform, censor, selfcensor the demagogues... the world would be a better place. " Solution: obstructing.

The return of (self-) censorship, cancel culture and self-reporting governance. Curtailing expression of thought and speech, de-platforming politicians. Censoring RT and Sputnik.

Perceived problem: Domestic collaborators and domestic/foreign demagogues

Interventions

  • Oversight boards
  • Deplatforming
  • Deranking/Throttling
  • Demonetization 
  • EU DSA/DMA Directives
  • Lawsuits

DROG has trained moderators, made educational material and vetted auditors. 

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Interactionist

Gen 5 - 2022 

Ukraine War

Deficit Model: Interaction

"If only we sponsor (group-) deliberation efforts we can move the needle. Mass persuasion doesn't work (as well) most think it works." Solution: communication.

Disinformation and propaganda don't have mass appeal (often contrary to popular belief). Demagogue spending for and against doesn't move the needle much. Disinformation is still a problem but not on a mass media kind of scale. Left behind regions and institutional distrust cannot be hammered out.  

Perceived problem: Societal alienation

Interventions

  • Street Epistomology
  • Deep Canvassing
  • Group Deliberation
  • Multi-user Media Literacy

DROG is creating educational escape rooms and (mock) debate rooms.

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No silver bullets

Current interventions

Many current interventions tackling disinformation are national in scope and ideological in essence, that is: without scientific underpinning, clearly defined goals, and effectiveness studies backing up their efforts. They typically propose only one of the quick fixes that are outlined in the DIM-model. In essence, most tell us: "the disinformation problem goes away if you give us more money". 

Their silver bullets often aim at the supposed gullibility of the masses and the supposed identical patterns that underlie all disinformation campaigns.

There are gullible individuals; they are exceptions not examples

Unlike the millions of other people who believe in fake news, Edgar Maddison Welch actually tried to stop a paedophile ring that he thought was happening in the basement of the pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. Welch had an understandable reaction to the information that children are being abused: he acted. For all others, the information was a belief without substance. Beliefs, especially professed beliefs, and especially those based on fake news, aren't as pernicious as you think. They don't work the way you think they work.

There are no identical patterns

Disinformation campaigns differ significantly. They differ over time, they differ geographically, and they differ for different target groups. It is a flagrant simplification to believe that more education, proper facts, better thinking, censorship, or more interaction between people by themself will solve all problems. 

That is not all. Sometimes, one-issue interventions simply get it wrong. Take the example of Gen-2 interventions. These interventions ignore counterintuitive research findings by social scientists that facts don't change minds; social interactions change minds. But that does not mean that proper facts don’t matter at all.

DROG interventions

DROG does not believe in silver bullets. We aim for international and targeted interventions, as well as ideology-agnostic interventions. We go with what works, that is: interventions that are science-based, have clearly defined goals, and are backed up by effectiveness studies.

The DIM-model

At DROG we observe the field. We've summed up different categories of interventions and put them on a tentative timeline - an intervention maturity timeline if you will.

Our hope is that the model will help interventions tackling disinformation not keep reinventing the wheel and not get stuck in a one-issue boot loop.

Gen by Gen (DIM)

Description: People change their minds mainly by interacting with other people. Under the right conditions, others can help us find errors in our beliefs, as we can help others find errors in theirs.

Interactionist

Gen 5 - 2022

Solution: Group work

Perceived problem: Societal alienation

Deficit Model: Social Interactions

Publications:

Interventions:

  • Street Epistemology
  • Deep Canvassing
  • Group Deliberation
  • Multiplayer Media Literacy
  • Selective Nodes

Beliefs acting as gatekeepers of information are social or idiosyncratic individualistic. Therefore, mass persuasion is hard. Counter to popular beliefs, in general, people aren't that gullible. Interactivist methods concentrate on group and group deliberation interventions that involve autonomous individuals.

Minimum prerequisites for open interactions are: experienced safety, experienced autonomy, experienced belonging, experienced achievement, and pluralism. Add to this: personal narratives, I statements, gradual build-up of topics regarding divisiveness, and gradually less scripted communication structures. Left behind regions and institutional distrust cannot be hammered out.  

Reasons are social, and so is truth. Mass persuasion is hard. Counter to popular beliefs, people aren't that gullible. Interactivist approaches concentrate on group deliberation interventions. 

DROG is creating educational escape rooms and (mock) debate rooms. Selective Node interventions go after the most contagious nodes in a social network not the whole. 

Description: A new kind of censorship. Weed-out, downrank, tax, sue, label, de-platform, throttle, censor, self-censor the disinformers directly... cutting of the snake's head. 

Denial of Service

Gen 4 - 2018

Solution: Obstructing

Perceived problem: Spreaders and foreign/domestic demagogues

Deficit Model: Algorithm moderators

Publications:

Coming

Interventions:

  • Oversight boards
  • Deplatforming
  • Throttling, downranking
  • Demonetization 
  • EU DSA/DMA 
  • Hate speech police
  • Litigation

Beliefs are the result of unbridled mass persuasion. Cf the ban on advertising for smoking, gambling and prescription drugs. There are only a handful of disinformation producers. If we obstruct the initial producers of mass persuasion the problem will get less and less. Banning some types of propaganda is fairly technocratic. 

Other interventions are seen as insufficient. These interventions welcome the return of (self-) censorship, cancel culture and self-reporting governance. Curtailing expression of thought and speech, de-platforming opinion leaders and politicians. Censoring RT and Sputnik, deplatforming Antivaxxers. Litigation on libel defamation and election interference. 

National approaches differ a lot. Some countries are far more hesitant to "restrict" civil rights since the flipside is that regime change will overcorrect. 

For some Very Large Online Platforms, throttling will eat into their bottom line. Cutting the head of a hydra instead of a snake is a real problem here. 

DROG has trained moderators, made educational material and vetted auditors. 

Description: Expose dishonest reasoning and lazy fallacies with games and TV shows 

Prebunking

Gen 3 - 2016

Solution: Prebunking

Perceived problem: Manipulation of vulnerabilities

Deficit Model: Rationality

Publications:

 Coming

Interventions:

  • Technique rebuttals
  • Applied inoculation
  • Multiplayer prebunking
  • CIB detection
  • Media literacy (psychological)

Market operators are taking over from NGOs, universities and traditional media organisations. Effectiveness studies into large-scale interventions. Technique rebuttal often works better than topic rebuttal. Science denial, conspiracies and disinformation have a lot in common.  

DROG has made viral multiplayer games in 20+ languages. DROG has done impact effectiveness studies.

Things

These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

Debunking

Gen 2 - 2014

Solution: Gainsaying

Perceived problem: Truth decay

Deficit Model: Information

Publications:

Coming

Interventions:

  • Topical rebuttals
  • Fact-checking
    (1st and 3rd party) 
  • Labelling of information
  • High-level expert group
  • EDMO

The rise of so-called Big Disinfo, an amalgam of data-scientists and journalists demanding public funds to "correct" facts. Asking the only professions where facts somewhat matter to think about what would mass persuade an average Joe. Populist winning elections

Journalists could expose and debunk non-facts and force-feed proper facts the world would be a better place. " 

DROG organized an election monitoring agency to detect inauthentic behaviour like bots, brigading and flooding without tracking normal people. 

Counter propaganda

Strategic Communication

Gen 1- 2014

Solution: Counter-interference propaganda

Perceived problem: Foreign interference

Deficit Model: Education

Publications:

Coming

Interventions:

  • Coordinated StratCom
  • Building networks
  • Support independent journalism
  • Think tank reports
  • News literacy (informational)

Countering foreign interference and ISIS recruitment efforts, fighting like with like. Asking NGO's and Civil Society as the first line of defence against propaganda with only donations and project funding. 

DROG has created classroom materials to help school kids see how dinformation works.