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How Can People Become Less Susceptible to "Fake News"?

If you’re in the habit of believing all of the information you come across on social media, there's a good chance you might be confusing “fake news” with the truth. But don't worry, there’s an online game that might help. In 2018, University of Cambridge researchers launched an online game called Bad News, and then analyzed the data from 15,000 people who completed the activity. The game puts you in the role of a “propaganda producer” who can deploy Twitter bots, Photoshop evidence, and spread conspiracy theories to attract online followers. The game’s creators hope to “inoculate” people against believing false information, and their research found that, on average, 21 percent of users improved their ability to identify truth from fiction.

Fake news, otherwise known as outright lies:

  • The game reduced the polarizing effect of fake headlines by about 10 percent, the researchers said, and saw players improve their abilities to identify attempts to discredit legitimate news sources with phony accusations of bias.
  • Players were also able to improve their skepticism about conspiracy theories designed to blame societal problems on nebulous secretive groups -- such as the so-called “deep state” -- by about 20 percent. You can find the game here.
  • "Research suggests that fake news spreads faster and deeper than the truth, so combatting disinformation after-the-fact can be like fighting a losing battle," said Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab.
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