Computer games may aid students to spot disinformation – Study

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INDIVIDUALS who play video games are more likely than non-players to watch online content intently, which allows them to notice even the smallest details more frequently, a new study has shown.

A brand-new game called Bad News was developed by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden, the University of Cambridge, and video game firms to test their theory on players.

516 Swedish upper secondary school students from four different schools participated in the experiment. In Bad News, players take on the role of a fake news propagandist, giving them the opportunity to learn about common manipulation strategies used to trick viewers.

READ: How to help children spot fake news

The game focuses on six common misinformation-spreading techniques: trolling, emotion, polarization, conspiracy, impersonation and discredit.

According to Thomas Nygren, an education professor at Uppsala University in Sweden and one of the study’s authors, this is a critical step in giving young people the tools they need to navigate a world full with misinformation.

Fake news tactics. CREDITS: E. Meszaros and M. Goodsett, "Debunking & Prebunking: Strategies for Librarians to Eradicate Misinformation" (2022). Michael Schwartz Library Publications, 183.
Fake news tactics. CREDITS: E. Meszaros and M. Goodsett, “Debunking & Prebunking: Strategies for Librarians to Eradicate Misinformation” (2022). Michael Schwartz Library Publications, 183.

“This is an important step towards equipping young people with the tools they need to navigate in a world full of disinformation.

“We all need to become better at identifying manipulative strategies since it is virtually impossible to discern deep fakes, for example, and other AI-generated disinformation with the naked eye,” Nygren added.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, students used a shared scorecard to play the game as a class, in pairs, or individually.
Students’ abilities to recognize deceptive content in social media posts and distinguish between trustworthy and false information significantly increased as a consequence of all three strategies.
The researchers discovered that adding competitive aspects to the game raised player interest.

“Some people believe that gamification can enhance learning in school. However, our results show that more gamification in the form of competitive elements does not necessarily mean that students learn more – though it can be perceived as more fun and interesting,” Nygren added.

ALSO READHow content creators use AI to misinform young children on YouTube – Report

The game, according to the authors, not only safeguards players against false information but also fosters positive perceptions of reliable news sources.

Serious games, which are fully realized games created with a particular training or instructional goal in mind, are becoming more and more common in public awareness campaigns.

Two further serious games were created by the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab: Go Viral, which focuses on COVID-19 misinformation, and Harmony Square, which was created in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security and is specifically about election disinformation.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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