UN and the WHO support anti-‘fake news’ computer game

You are here:
< Back

A computer game designed to tackle ‘fake news’ (during the Covid pandemic) was developed by Cambridge University and the UK Government, and which was publicised by the WHO and the UN. 

Entitled “Go Viral!”, the game was billed on Cambridge University’s website as follows: 

“CAMBRIDGE GAME ‘PRE-BUNKS’ COVID-19 CONSPIRACIES AS PART OF THE UK GOVERNMENT’S FIGHT AGAINST FAKE NEWS”  

The advertising likens ‘fake news’ to a virus that needs to be eliminated: 

“The game gives players a taste of the techniques and motivations behind the spread of coronavirus misinformation – “inoculating” them against its influence.” 

“It builds on research from Cambridge psychologists that found by giving people a taste of the techniques used to spread fake news on social media, it increases their ability to identify and disregard misinformation in the future.” 

“Fake news can travel faster and lodge itself deeper than the truth,” said Dr Sander van der Linden, who leads the project and the Social Decision-Making Lab at Cambridge. “Fact-checking is vital, but it comes too late and lies have already spread like the virus,” he said. “We are aiming to pre-emptively debunk, or pre-bunk, misinformation by exposing people to a mild dose of the methods used to disseminate fake news.” said Dr Sander van der Linden. 

An indirect connection to Bill Gates came with a quote from one of Van der Linden’s colleague’s and one of the game’s creators – a GATES Scholar at Cambridge, Melisa Basol: “By exposing people to the tactics behind fake news we can help create a general ‘inoculation’, rather than trying to counter each specific falsehood.” 

“The Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge; this is the largest ever single donation to a UK university.” 

Van Der Linden and “Go Viral!” got more publicity as an interviewee on BBC Radio in November 2020 in the mental health series “All in the Mind” (BBC Radio 4, November 11th 2020). Presenter CLAUDIA HAMMOND described the game as training people to spot fake news “…by learning NOT how to tell what’s true, but the techniques that people use to spread rumours and gain followers.” Note that the game focusses on the messenger, NOT the message, which to me is a poor way of judging information. 

The game is divided into 3 levels:  

1) “The Fearmongerer”, which is about exploiting emotions to manipulate people online, including outrage. 

2) “My imaginary expert”, which tackles the use of fake experts, such as Doctors of Natural Medicine peddling fake coronavirus cures. 

 3) “Master of Puppets”, which deals with ‘contagious’ conspiracy theories, particularly around vaccines.