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

Countering foreign interference and ISIS recruitment efforts by fighting like with like. Engaging NGOs and civil society as the first line of defence against propaganda. Their efforts are supported by 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 disinformation works. 

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Debunking

Gen 2 - 2014

Populists winning elections

Deficit Model: Information

"If only journalists could expose and debunk non-facts and present proper facts instead the world would be a better place." Solution: fact-checking.

As an answer to the rise of so-called Big Disinfo, an amalgam of data-scientists and journalists check facts that made it into public discourse. Professionals help individuals navigate the information jungle.

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 behavior 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.

Science denial, conspiracies and disinformation have a lot in common. Market operators focus on technique rebuttal rather than on fact rebuttal. They implement effectiveness studies in large-scale interventions.

Perceived problem: Manipulation of domestic 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: Gatekeeping

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

Reaction to perceived mass danger resulting from counter-narratives. Restricting expression of thought and speech as self-defence. Censoring blatant Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference.

Perceived problem: Foreign and domestic demagogues amplified by domestic spreaders

Interventions

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

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

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Interactionist

Gen 5 - 2022 

Ukraine War

Deficit Model: Interaction

"If only we could get people with different opinions to sit down and constructively find answers together the world would be a better place." Solution: communication.

Disinformation and propaganda do not have mass appeal and do not constitute a problem on a mass media scale (contrary to popular belief). Left behind regions, distrust in institutions, and dislocated individuals cannot be addressed top-down.  

Perceived problem: Societal alienation

Interventions

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

DROG is probing approaches that facilitate peer-to-peer interaction, creates educational escape rooms as well as (mock) debate rooms.

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Many current interventions tackling disinformation are national in scope and ideological in essence, that is: without scientific underpinning, clearly defined goals, or cost-effectiveness studies backing up their efforts. They typically propose only one of the intervention types that are outlined in the DIM-model. In essence, they claim: "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. But there are no silver bullets.

Gullible individuals do exist; they are exceptions not examples

For most people, disinformation is a belief without real consequences. Not so for Edgar Maddison Welch. He displayed an understandable reaction to the information that children were supposedly abused: he acted. Unlike the millions of other people who believe in fake news, Welch actually tried to do something. He tried stop a paedophile ring that he thought was happening in the basement of the pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. In general though, beliefs, especially professed beliefs, and especially those based on disinformation, do not work the way they are generally thought to work.

There are no identical patterns

Disinformation campaigns differ significantly. They differ over time, they differ geographically, and they differ for different target groups. Context is crucially important.

There are no silver bullets

DROG aims 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 cost-effectiveness studies for the given context. We created the DIM model to make sure that interventions tackling disinformation do not keep reinventing the wheel and do 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 communication

Perceived problem: Societal alienation

Deficit Model: Social interactions

Interventions:

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

Interactivist methods concentrate on group deliberation interventions that involve autonomous individuals.

Minimum prerequisites for constructive group interactions are: experienced safety, experienced autonomy, experienced belonging, experienced achievement, and pluralism. Add to this: involving all individuals, personal narratives, I statements, gradual build-up of topics regarding divisiveness, and gradually less scripted communication structures.

DROG is probing approaches that facilitate peer-to-peer interaction, creates educational escape rooms as well as (mock) debate rooms.

Description: By restricting and sanctioning the transmission of disinformation its reach and effect is diminished.

Denial of Service

Gen 4 - 2018

Solution: Obstructing

Perceived problem: Foreign and domestic demagogues amplified by domestic spreaders

Deficit Model: Gatekeeping

Interventions:

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

Beliefs are the result of unbridled, repeated mass persuasion. There are only a handful of disinformation producers. If we obstruct the initial producers of mass persuasion the problem will get less and less. 

Experiences with banning advertising for smoking, gambling and prescription drugs are a point in case. Individual behavior changes when the legal and informational contexts change.

National approaches differ a lot. Some countries are far more hesitant to seemingly restrict civil rights since the flipside is arbitrary state power. 

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

Description: By letting potential receivers experience how disinformation is created and spread, they are getting inoculated.

Prebunking

Gen 3 - 2016

Solution: Prebunking

Perceived problem: Manipulation of domestic vulnerabilities

Deficit Model: Rationality

Interventions:

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

By inviting people over to the other side they get acquainted with the techniques of manipulation that creators and spreaders of disinformation use. This acquaintance will protect them in future encounters with disinformation. They will recognize the methods used and are more resilient.

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

Once everyone has access to the relevant facts constructive debates become possible because polarization disappears.

Debunking

Gen 2 - 2014

Solution: Fact-checking

Perceived problem: Truth decay

Deficit Model: Verified information

Publications:

Interventions:

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

Once everybody agrees on the relevant facts as a pre-political baseline there will be a groundwork for an effective debate in which all can express their opinions and convictions.

The bottom line is summarized by US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who once told an obdurate opponent, "You are entitled to you own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

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

Citizens need access to proper information and new skills to distinguish false narratives from true narratives.

Strategic Communication

Gen 1- 2014

Solution: Information campaigns

Perceived problem: Foreign interference

Deficit Model: Education

Interventions:

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

Specialist, academic and policy-maker insights need to spread to a wider audience. Training for people with functions sensitive to foreign interference and general awareness-raising campaigns are important. Media and digital literacy education is crucial to empower citizens to better interpret and evaluate the information they encounter.

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