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Bad News: a game against disinformation

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The University of Cambridge has developed an online game called “Bad News” with the goal of countering misinformation. Researchers designed it as a psychological intervention tool to familiarize people with common misinformation and disinformation strategies. Players take on the role of fake news creators and learn to master six techniques used in the production of misinformation: polarization, emotional appeal, propagation of conspiracy theories, targeted trolling, blame shifting, and fake account duplication. The results of their study, conducted with 15,000 participants and published in 2019, show that the game does indeed help players better identify misinformation.

The game is based on the theory of inoculation, according to which pre-existing attitudes, beliefs, or opinions must be reinforced in order to prevent false persuasion. The game could thus help people develop a “cognitive immunity” to false information and be better equipped to refine their sense-making processes. Indicators of credibility and of the number of subscribers contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying misinformation.

In fact, the game was developed with an educational component—a fact sheet—and could be used in classrooms to increase media awareness and encourage gamification as a civic engagement tool. Verifying the reliability of sources is an essential skill, especially online. Bad News could be integrated into school curricula as an innovative way to engage students in the fight against misinformation.

Sources

“Bad News,” page accessed October 22, 2019, https://getbadnews.com/#intro

“Bad News: Information Sheet,” page accessed October 22, 2019, http://getbadnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Bad-News-Game-info-sheet-for-educators-English.pdf.

K. Rodgers, “This game makes players better at spotting disinformation in just 15 minutes, study finds”, last modified July 2, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/disinformation-study-online-game-vaccinate-1.5194616.

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Julie-Anne Turner

Uncertainties about the future lead Julie-Anne to the deep mines of foresight, and she hasn’t looked back since. She holds a masters of education in the background, and curiosity in the foreground. Adventurous by nature, she enjoys cycling through the winding roads of potential futures and swimming in the depths of change. A tinkerer at heart, she enjoys challenging and reconstructing assumptions. Aided by caffeine and her sensible colleagues, she aims to leave no policy unhorizoned. Mission: Plausible.

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