Quirks & Quarks

This online game could be a 'psychological vaccine' for fake news

How to get the fake news bug out of your system.
Deception and misinformation has become an even more serious problem in the internet age
Listen8:20

Making fake news to spot fake news

Researchers think an online game in which the goal is to produce convincing fake news can act as a kind of psychological vaccine that teaches people how to recognize deception and misinformation.

Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory and a psychologist at Cambridge University, has worked with a group of Dutch media literacy activists, to produce an online game called the Fake News Game. In the game players pretend to distribute fake news through Twitter, blogs and online newspapers, and make choices that allow them to add to their score by building up followers and using deceptive techniques to maintain credibility. The techniques the players use in the game are modelled on those used by fake news producers in the real world.

Learning to recognize deception

Based on work from previous studies, Dr. van der Linden thinks that this exposure to the techniques of deception used in misinformation can act as a kind of vaccine against fake news. His previous work suggested that this kind of inoculation is more successful at helping people detect and reject fake news than just correcting bad information with good information. He hopes data from people who play the game (and agree to participate in his study) will help develop more understanding about which fake news techniques work best — and what also works best to counter it.

Take our fake news quiz: Are these headlines real or fake?