Fake News Game Wants to 'Vaccinate' People Against Russian Trolls

fake news game russia trolls
Bad News encourages the hopeful fake news tycoon to spread attention-grabbing lies to build their media empires. Bad News/ Screengrab

A new video game hopes to "vaccinate" internet users against fake news and online trolls by teaching players the manipulative tactics used in disinformation campaigns on social media.

Researchers from the psychology department at the University of Cambridge developed Bad News in response to the ongoing issue of fake news, which on Friday led to the indictments of more than a dozen Russians involved in manipulating platforms like Facebook and Twitter to broaden political divides in the U.S. and sway the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump.

"In this game you take on the role of fake news-monger," the game's description states. "Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate."

bad news game cambridge university
Bad News tells players to "drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate." DROG/ Bad News

The aim of Bad News is to amass as many social media followers as possible by playing off people's fears and anger. Players are able to amplify their propaganda by buying bots that will follow their account and make small news stories appear more significant through retweets.

"You don't win if you're not willing to skirt some ethical guidelines here and there," the game explains.

As part of the game, players are encouraged to take part in a survey that the researchers hope to use as part of their study into media literacy and education. Responses will help the game's developers better understand the issue and potentially theorize new ways to fight fake news.

The release of the game follows comments on Twitter from Rob Goldman, Facebook's vice president for advertising, claiming that fake news can be effectively countered through education.

"There are easy ways to fight this," Goldman posted on February 17. "Disinformation is ineffective against a well educated citizenry."

Read more: Russian trolls and fake news are set to get even worse, warns former White House adviser

Goldman cited Finland, Sweden and Holland as examples of countries that have taught their citizens digital literacy in order to counter disinformation campaigns coming out of Russia.

His comments contradict claims by Republican Senator Jim Risch that the U.S. public is educated enough to be able to spot disinformation campaigns.