Can you spot fake news? Scientists create web game to ‘vaccinate’ people against online lies

Rob Waugh
If fake news is a disease, this Bad News game wants to be the vaccination

Fake news stories and distorted social media posts are still everywhere online, despite repeated vows from social media companies to crack down on them.

Now Cambridge University scientists have designed a game to help people spot fake news – in the hope it will ‘vaccinate’ web users against disinformation campaigns.

The game, played in a web browser, sees players trying to amass Twitter followers by posting a series of false news stories, showing the real tactics used by fake news producers.

Researchers at Cambridge University have teamed up with a Dutch media collective to develop an English version of the game aimed at inoculating people against the spread of so-called fake news

Starting small with a few fake Tweets, users build up to posting faked stories from faked outlets – showing how it’s really done online.

You can play the game here.


Dr Sander van der Linden, director of Cambridge University’s Social Decision-Making Laboratory, said: ‘A biological vaccine administers a small dose of the disease to build immunity.

‘Similarly, inoculation theory suggests that exposure to a weak or demystified version of an argument makes it easier to refute when confronted with more persuasive claims.

‘If you know what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who is actively trying to deceive you, it should increase your ability to spot and resist the techniques of deceit.

‘We want to help grow ‘mental antibodies’ that can provide some immunity against the rapid spread of misinformation.’