Last updated March 1, 2018 at 10:02 am
Online game released today to ‘immunise’ against fake news.
In a world where the internet is saturated with all sorts of stories, it can be hard to differentiate between what is real and what is fake.
But researchers hope a new game they have developed for people to play the role of someone spreading fake news, will teach them and protect them against the influence of fake news in real life.
The same researchers have previously shown that exposing people to tactics used by fake news propagandists can almost serve as a “psychological vaccine” against misinformation.
In the game, players create misleading information – aka fake news – through a serious of techniques such as creating a fake news website or buying fake Twitter followers.
The game rewards you the more you spread misinformation through anger, mistrust and fear.
“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,” says Dr Sander van der Linden, Director of Cambridge University’s Social Decision-Making Lab.
“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.”
The researchers hope that the framework of the game can be used for anti-radicalisation purposes.
“We aren’t trying to drastically change behaviour, but instead trigger a simple thought process to help foster critical and informed news consumption,” says Jon Roozenbeek, a researcher from Cambridge’s Department of Slavonic Studies and one of the game’s designers.
An early paper version of the game was tested in the Netherlands with 95 students, with an average age of 16, randomly divided into treatment and control.
Those who had been involved in trying to create fake news were able to call out fake news for what it was better than the control group, who had not produced their own fake article.
The findings from this pilot study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Risk Research.
With the online version (desktop and mobile-friendly) akin to a large vaccine trial, the researchers hope to reach more players that will share it and help create a large anonymous dataset of journeys through the game. The data can then be used to help increase media literacy and fake new resilience.
“We try to let players experience what it is like to create a filter bubble so they are more likely to realise they may be living in one,” adds van der Linden.
The research and education project, a collaboration between Cambridge researchers and Dutch media collective DROG, is launching an English version of the game online today at http://www.fakenewsgame.org.