Game helps players spot 'fake news'

Bad News app Image copyright Bad News

A game designed to help people understand how fake news and conspiracy theories spread online has been created at the University of Cambridge.

Bad News lets players build a social media following by choosing inflammatory headlines and images to share with their imaginary fans.

Players earn achievements for impersonating celebrities and spreading misinformation.

The creators say they want the game to be a "vaccine" against fake news.

"These techniques are out there, they are being used by real people," Dr Sander van der Linden, director of the University of Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory, told the BBC.

"What we're trying to do is demystify and illuminate what these techniques are, how to spot them, how to recognise them, and not be influenced by them."

Image copyright Bad News
Image caption Players set up their own fake news site

While the game could teach people how to spread fake news online, Dr van der Linden said it would help people recognise the techniques used.

"If you go and see a magic show, the first time you are duped if you don't know how it works," he said.

"But when the magician explains the trick to you, you won't be fooled again the next time around."

The term fake news is often used to describe deliberately fabricated stories that are designed to mislead and influence people.

However, it has also been used by politicians to try and discredit unfavourable news coverage.

"One of the things we tried to do is keep it ideologically balanced," said Dr van der Linden.

"There's always a left [wing] path and a right path, so it's not infused with a particular ideology.

"It doesn't matter if you attack the left or the right, because you're trying to polarise people."

The BBC recently launched its own scheme to help young people filter out fake news from the real thing.

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