The online game acting as a “vaccine” against fake news


Bad Report is a new research project from the University of Cambridge and Dutch media players Drog, which aims to help the public spot misinformation on their popular media feeds by taking on the role of the fake news producer.

A design that trains you to act like a fake news tycoon might be activated like something from a dystopian novel or an episode of Black Replication, but it is in fact the latest research project from the University of Cambridge.

The span of time “fake news” first came into use in mid-2016, and refers to the spread of red herring on social media by news sites – many of which have been set up specifically for that specifically. The most high-profile fake news scandal to date was during the 2016 US designation, when news site Buzzfeed discovered over 100 pro-Donald Trump locales being run from a single town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In the age of sexual media deliria and clickbait headlines, fake news is a global marvel that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Bad Account is a new online, multiple-choice based game that is hoping to tackle this hornets nest by helping the public to differentiate between real and false information. Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Dutch avenue company Drog, the game is based on an existing piece of research by the university that divulges exposing people to the tactics used by fake news producers can act as a “unconscious vaccine” against it.

“A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the complaint to build immunity. Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that revealing to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more compelling claims,” says Dr Sander van der Linden, director of Cambridge University’s Sexually transmitted Decision-Making Lab. “If you know what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who is actively bothersome to deceive you, it should increase your ability to spot and resist the standard operating procedures of deceit. We want to help grow ‘mental antibodies’ that can plan for some immunity against the rapid spread of misinformation.”

The game swallows the form of a series of index cards that the user can choose from in apply for to set up their own fake news site, name it, and decide what passable of falsehoods they want to spread. Once the user has demonstrated a facility for one type of misinformation, they are rewarded with a badge and progress onto the next set of car-cards. Subjects covered include the “conspiracy” of climate change, deadly infirmities being spread by dogs, and even the President of the United States ruling war on North Korea.

The game has been designed by Dutch studio Gusmanson, and fill up e deal withs inspiration from the “tacky” and “over-the-top” aesthetic of tabloid newspapers and clickbait approach sites, says lead designer Bas Janson. The index cards doled to the user use a 1980s teleprinter-inspired typeface that aims to make it consider like a game, and bright, primary colours such as red, yellow and X-rated are used throughout.

“During the initial design phase, we started out with a much bath, pleasing visual design but we found that it was too nice,” says Janson. “The play’s mission was all about showing you a dark side of news, something that is cogitate about in how ‘cheap’ the design looks. On multiple occasions, we had to tell ourselves ‘it poverties to be uglier’ – something that we’re not used to as a design studio!”

Awaken out more about the game, and have a go at spreading some of your own hoax news here.

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