A team of social psychologists developed an online game “Go Viral!” that may be a useful tool against misinformation. It can help Internet users discover misinformation and call it “manipulative.”
False information is often spread by automated robots, but also by unknowing people. It enters our minds by arousing injustice or distrust and using emotional language to cause fear and anger among social media users. Sadly, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can have very real and sometimes fatal consequences.
However, just as vaccines stimulate an immune response to prevent disease, so does this new game called GoViral! – Designed for people to understand the strategy of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories so that they can combat false information online.
Why The Game “GoViral!” Introduced?
Social psychologist and co-author Jon Roozenbeek said that “COVID-19 falsehoods and conspiracies pose a real threat to vaccination programs in almost every nation. Every weapon in our arsenal should be used to fight the fake news that poses a threat to herd immunity.”
In two studies, gamers were more likely to classify misinformation as manipulative information when the game time only passed 5 minutes compared to real news. They are even more confident in their ability to spot misinformation after a week and say they are unlikely to spread misinformation to others.
The basic idea of the game is that once the wrong information is posted online, it can be more effective to prevent the spread of the wrong information than to disprove each specific false information with actual content from a trusted source.
What Was The Goal Behind The Game “GoViral!”?
University of Cambridge social psychologist Sander van der Linden explains that “While fact-checking is vital work, it can come too late. Trying to debunk misinformation after it spreads is often a difficult if not impossible task.”
On the contrary, GoViral! Its goal is to prevent false narratives from taking hold by building people’s trust and the ability to recognize false information.
Van Der Linden said that “By pre-emptively exposing people to a microdose of the methods used to disseminate fake news, we can help them identify and ignore it in the future.”
Studies have shown that it is worrying that very few adults really know how to spot misinformation, and in a survey report, less than half of Australian adults can do it with confidence. Other studies have also shown that the inaction of silent viewers contributes to the spread of fake news.
Biomedical informatics researcher Adam Dunn at the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study said that “The aim of countering misinformation is not to change the opinions of the people posting it but to reduce misperceptions among the often-silent audience.”
So How Does The Game “GoViral!” Work?
Players’ task is to promote harmful information about COVID-19 in order to use deceptive techniques, such as summoning fraudulent “experts”, to cause public panic in the virtual game field. Researchers say this raises the gamers’ awareness of how misinformation works and how people can help prevent it. This is a kind of “psychological resistance” to false information in the future.
Their analysis involved 3,548 players in two independent studies. The first study collected data from real-world users who were surveyed before and after playing the game, showing 18 social media posts at a time. Half is credible, half is not. These GoViral’s take effect immediately after playing! Gamers can distinguish the real convincing conspiracy news about COVID-19 better than before playing the game.
In the second study, the researchers compared the game to UNESCO’s #ThinkBeforeSharing campaign and a set of graphics of a group of players who have played Tetris.
About two-thirds of GoViral! Players said they felt less likely to be cheated in the future. A week later, GoViral! Gamers still see misinformation as more manipulative than credible news, and more manipulative than Tetris players or infographic readers.
Should also point out that infographics can help people identify misinformation, but not much or little.
Roozenbeek said that “Interestingly, our findings also show that the active inoculation of playing the game may have more longevity than passive inoculations such as reading the infographics.”
What Were The Results Of “GoViral!”?
Although the results may be encouraging, games supported by the British Cabinet Office, WHO, and UNESCO have not garnered as much attention online. It’s available in multiple languages, but since its release in October last year, it has only been played 400,000 times.
However, whether you are a gamer or not, remember that there are many ways to stop misleading information if you stop thinking about it.
The research was published in Big Data and Society. If you want to try this game yourself, you can get it for free here.
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