A new experiment, launching today online, aims to help ‘inoculate’ against disinformation by providing a small dose of perspective from a “fake news tycoon”. A pilot study has shown some early success in building resistance to fake news among teenagers.
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
Sander van der Linden
A new online game puts players in the shoes of an aspiring propagandist to give the public a taste of the techniques and motivations behind the spread of disinformation – potentially “inoculating” them against the influence of so-called fake news in the process.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have already shown that briefly exposing people to tactics used by fake news producers can act as a “psychological vaccine” against bogus anti-science campaigns.
While the previous study focused on disinformation about climate science, the new online game is an experiment in providing “general immunity” against the wide range of fake news that has infected public debate.
The game encourages players to stoke anger, mistrust and fear in the public by manipulating digital news and social media within the simulation.
Players build audiences for their fake news sites by publishing polarising falsehoods, deploying twitter bots, photo-shopping evidence, and inciting conspiracy theories in the wake of public tragedy – all while maintaining a “credibility score” to remain as persuasive as possible.
A pilot study conducted with teenagers in a Dutch high school used an early paper-and-pen trial of the game, and showed the perceived “reliability” of fake news to be diminished in those that played compared to a control group.
The psychological theory behind the research is called “inoculation”:
“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. We want to help grow ‘mental antibodies’ that can provide some immunity against the rapid spread of misinformation.”
Based in part on existing studies of online propaganda, and taking cues from actual conspiracy theories about organisations such as the United Nations, the game is set to be translated for countries such as Ukraine, where disinformation casts a heavy shadow.
There are also plans to adapt the framework of the game for anti-radicalisation purposes, as many of the same manipulation techniques – using false information to provoke intense emotions, for example – are commonly deployed by recruiters for religious extremist groups.
“You don’t have to be a master spin doctor to create effective disinformation. Anyone can start a site and artificially amplify it through twitter bots, for example. But recognising and resisting fake news doesn’t require a PhD in media studies either,” says Jon Roozenbeek, a researcher from Cambridge’s Department of Slavonic Studies and one of the game’s designers.
“We aren’t trying to drastically change behavior, but instead trigger a simple thought process to help foster critical and informed news
Roozenbeek points out that some efforts to combat fake news are seen as ideologically charged. “The framework of our game allows players to lean towards the left or right of the political spectrum. It’s the experience of misleading through news that counts,” he says.
The pilot study in the Netherlands using a paper version of the game involved 95 students with an average age of 16, randomly divided into treatment and control.
This version of the game focused on the refugee crisis, and all participants were randomly presented with fabricated news articles on the topic at the end of the experiment.
The treatment group were assigned roles – alarmist, denier, conspiracy theorist or clickbait monger – and tasked with distorting a government fact sheet on asylum seekers using a set of cards outlining common propaganda tactics consistent with their role.
They found fake news to be significantly less reliable than the control group, who had not produced their own fake article. Researchers describe the results of this small study as limited but promising. The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Risk Research.
The team are aiming to take their “fake news vaccine” trials to the next level with today’s launch of the online game.
With content written mostly by the Cambridge researchers along with Ruurd Oosterwoud, founder of DROG, the game only takes a few minutes to complete. The hope is that players will then share it to help create a large anonymous dataset of journeys through the game.
The researchers can then use this data to refine techniques for increasing media literacy and fake news resilience in a ‘post-truth’ world. “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 Latest on: Fake news
via Google News
The Latest on: Fake news
- Fake charities can be almost impossible to spot. Here's how to make sure your donations get to the right placeon July 7, 2022 at 9:30 am
In times of crisis, donations can go a long way to helping people in need. But scammers will try to capitalize on your compassion.
- Gen-Z group creates tool that spams fake abortion clinics with one-star Yelp reviewson July 7, 2022 at 9:29 am
Gen-Z for Change created a tool that spams fake abortion clinics', aka crisis pregnancy centers', Yelp reviews.
- Social Media Is Rife With Tips on Accessing Abortion Pills: What's Real, What's Fake — and What's Safe?on July 7, 2022 at 9:08 am
"For every abortion in a clinic in North America, Europe, India, or China, there have probably been 1,000 abortions with pills outside of clinics — that's how safe they are," says consultant and ...
- Boris Johnson’s Fake Populism Reaches Its Logical Endon July 7, 2022 at 9:05 am
Not too long ago, I heard one of the leading Brexiteers describe his political philosophy in a room full of CEOs and senior politicians. He started by talking to this elite group about the great ...
- Feds urged to crack down on fake Indigenous art, copyright breacheson July 7, 2022 at 9:03 am
The federal government is facing calls to take action against fakes and commercial knock-offs in the Indigenous art market.
- Wine Fraudsters Busted for Selling Thousands of Bottles of Fake Bordeauxon July 7, 2022 at 8:58 am
The labels on their wines said Bordeaux but the liquids inside were from anywhere but. About 20 people from seven parts of France were arrested last Monday, accused by French authorities of producing ...
- Pro-Lifers Making Fake Appointments to Thwart Providerson July 7, 2022 at 8:57 am
Anti-abortion activists in the Philadelphia area are targeting abortion providers by making fake appointments in a bid to keep them from treating real patients, according to a new report by Philly ...
- Fake currency seized in Odisha, two arrestedon July 7, 2022 at 8:48 am
Acting on a tip-off, the STF, with the help of Bargarh police, conducted a raid in Barapalli in the western Odisha district and seized the fake currency.
- This Cat's Fake Twitter Has No Patience For Boris During PM's Series of Scandalson July 7, 2022 at 8:00 am
Larry the Cat is more beloved than any British leader since he became chief mouser. The feline’s online persona has become a rallying cry against Boris Johnson.
- LAPD: Fake cop kidnaps boy after hitting him with truckon July 7, 2022 at 6:17 am
A man is accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy after hitting him with a pickup truck and then ordering him to get inside the vehicle while pretending to be a police officer.
via Bing News