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The US has long been worried about foreign efforts to use persuasion and influence against US servicemembers, but the recent weaponization of social media has given this topic urgency. Unfortunately, protecting oneself from mis-/dis-/mal-information (MDM) is more complicated than it might seem. Being savvy about the media landscape is not sufficient, nor is knowing that you are being exposed to MDM. This content works by exploiting normal psychological mechanisms that people use in their day-to-day lives [1]. As an analogy, keeping your front door locked at night is a great first step in protecting your home, but it won’t stop a burglar who breaks in through your dryer vent (i.e., something that you didn’t think of as a vulnerability).

In promising news, an increasingly robust body of research has explored how to effectively protect against mis-/dis-/mal-information (MDM). In this analysis, we conducted a full review of the literature on these interventions: inoculation, debunking, fact-checking, and media literacy. We provided a brief history of each technique, a description of how each one works, and a summary of the state of research on each technique. In the tables below, we define each intervention type and briefly summarize our findings.

Importantly, this research is not designed to change people’s strongly held positions, or even people’s lightly held opinions. The goal is narrow and specific: help people sift the true from the false, and protect people from being manipulated by systems and actors aspiring to hack their brains.

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  • Document Number: DSI-2024-U-037900-Final
  • Publication Date: 3/29/2024