Our Methodology

The web-based platform behind www.propwatch.org, also known as The Propwatch Project, is an online database that can catalog and cross-reference video segments of propaganda from embedded video, which can be queried to produce narrowly-tailored video arrays for viewing and analysis. Our underlying treatment methodology is based on a messaging strategy of refutational preemption, more commonly known as "inoculation," a social psychological communication theory which has been shown to be effective at protecting individual attitudes and beliefs against devices of mass persuasion.

What is Inoculation?

A messaging strategy of inoculation is analogous to the medical inoculation process, whereby a subject is exposed to a threat in order to build up his or her immune response, which will be triggered again when a real threat is encountered. This not only bolsters the original recipient's immediate resistance to propagandist messaging, but also builds resistance to future challenges. For inoculation be effective, the message receiver must first be able to identify the threat, which is why we showcase authentic content.  

Beyond the benefits to the original recipient, this same inoculation process motivates "postinoculation talk," which is the viral effect of those individuals who receive an inoculation message and share it with others.

How Effective is this Approach?

In order to assess the project's impact on website viewers, we've developed a series of impact assessments to gather data on viewers' ability to detect propaganda through exposure to instances of propaganda techniques in authentic use.

Based on our current impact study data, as of July 2021, our participants' ability to identify propaganda improved 44.17% after only 90 minutes of viewing selected content on the propwatch.org website. See more about our latest research here.

Transparency of Methodology

Our methodology for deconstructing political speech is unique. Once a video clip is analyzed and an instance of propaganda identified, it is documented in the form of a "play-by-play" entry in the database. When determining whether a statement demonstrates a certain technique, we are looking for patterns that match signatures of the techniques listed in the site glossary.

We analyze all videos clips with two analysts working independently on the same clip. After both analysts have finished their work, they compare the results for matching entries where the same technique was identified at the same timecode by both analysts. The same video clip is then independently reviewed by an editor. If the editor confirms a signature match, the entry is retained in the database and published. If the editor cannot confirm a signature match, the entry is deleted from the database.

For example, when identifying a statement that uses minimization- characterizing something that's difficult to deny as trivial or insignificant, before shifting the focus to "more important" things.
, there should be a clear pattern of trivializing something that is being scrutinized, followed by a deflection to something the speaker promotes as being more important. When identifying a statement as an appeal to compromised authority- insisting something is true because an expert or authority on the issue says it's true, when that authority is compromised or has a vested interest in the outcome.
, it must be verified how the authority cited in the statement is biased or has a vested interest in the outcome, providing a link to a reliable source that details that bias or spells out a clear conflict of interest with the authority being cited.

While all database entries go through this 3-step verification process, there isn't any actual scientific formula that is 100% objective for identifying propaganda. There are objective measures that can be devised and employed, but ultimately there is always some degree of subjective judgment involved when making these determinations.

Commitment to Nonpartisanship

In keeping with our commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness, we analyze all content using the same standard and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not concentrate our analysis on any one side of the political spectrum.