"Fake news" has been a subject of intense debate for more than a year now, with Congressional hearings on the matter and Facebook admitting its "corrosive" effect on democracy for allowing fake news to spread in its networks. But even though companies ranging from Google to Mozilla are increasingly trying to get rid of this problem through changes in their services, for some researchers from Cambridge, the best approach would be to educate people.
In order to do so, the researchers have created a new online game, Bad News, in which the player is a wannabe "fake news tycoon" who must amass virtual Twitter followers while also paying attention to a credibility meter. As soon as the game starts, players are presented with some of the tactics applied by disinformation agents, such as impersonating a real person and posing as a legitimate news website without the usual journalistic guidelines.
By the end of the game, the player is exposed to a total of six different "skills" the researchers have chosen to work with: impersonation, emotion, polarization, conspiracy, discredit, and trolling. But what is really at play in Bad News is a technique derived from social psychology and known as Inoculation theory.
According to this theory, as pointed out by the researchers, “people are able to build up a resistance against false or misleading information by being presented with a weakened version of a misleading argument before being exposed to the ‘real’ information”. Therefore, the researchers' expectation is that, once you can recognize what is trying to mislead you - in this case by applying the misleading techniques yourself, you can resist it.
The game also comes with an information sheet for educators, so they can more easily create workshops to educate people - aged 14 or older - on the matter. Also, for the next six months, Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and one of the creators of the game, will collect data from it to study how well players evolved their 'fake news' spotting abilities.
Have you tried Bad News? What do you think about the researchers' approach on the matter? Also, don't forget to follow us @NeowinGaming on Twitter to keep up to date with our gaming coverage!