Fake news is one of the most pervasive issues of our time, and whilst there are projects underway to ensure improvements are made in both the media themselves and the intermediaries (such as Facebook) that serve us our news, there is also much we as readers can do to stamp out fake news.
A new game has been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge to help players better identify fake news. The game puts the player in the shows of the budding propagandist to hopefully give an insight into the strategies and motivations behind misinformation campaigns. The aim is to provide a level of ‘immunity’ to fake news.
Players are tasked with stoking anger and mistrust in the public by manipulating digital news and social media. They have a range of tactics available, from deploying Twitter bots to photoshopping evidence. With each tactic deployed, their ‘credibility score’ is updated as they try and remain as persuasive as possible whilst stretching the truth to its limits.
An early variant of the game was tested with teenagers in a Dutch school, and the team found that it did indeed give players a degree of inoculation against fake news in real life.
“A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the disease to build immunity. Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that exposure to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more persuasive claims,” the team explain.
“If you know what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who is actively trying to deceive you, it should increase your ability to spot and resist the techniques of deceit. We want to help grow ‘mental antibodies’ that can provide some immunity against the rapid spread of misinformation.”
The game is in English at the moment, but the team plan to translate it into versions for countries such as Ukraine in the future. It has been developed based upon studies of online disinformation.
It only takes a couple of minutes to play the game, thus hopefully creating minimal barriers to participation. The team hope that the game will go viral, and with enough players help to create a sizeable (anonymous) dataset that can further refine techniques for increasing media literacy and resilience to fake news.
“We try to let players experience what it is like to create a filter bubble so they are more likely to realize they may be living in one,” the team explain.