Catching a virus of the mind, disinformation, can devastate a human life. Prevention is far better. In medical terms, we can be inoculated via a vaccine to protect ourselves against a virus. Can the same concept be applied in the context of misinformation?
To a degree, yes it can.
What concepts exist?
There is “Prebunking”. This is a strategy that works by priming people with misinformation and warns them about it before they buy into it.
I have a couple of examples further down. These are games that are designed to specifically pre-bunk.
Education also plays a role. We all sit upon a fence and can at times lean towards either emotional thinking or analytical thinking. Education is a process that nudges us towards analytical thinking. If it truly succeeds, it will create people who will be skeptical when faced with various claims.
Disinformation panders to our emotions by pressing hot-button topics. Those that lean towards responding emotionally are easily manipulated. If however you hit pause and consider what is being said analytically then you are in a far better position.
Education is not simply a process of learning facts and figures. At it’s very best it is about empowering people to seek and find truth.
We all have psychological needs. At times of high stress we naturally gravitate towards the voices that offer us hope and promise us something better. The deceivers are pandering to this and leverage this psychology.
Address those psychological needs with things of substance in meaningful ways and you will in effect neutralise the impact of those that are whispering lies. The offer of a hamburger over there is no longer tempting if you can stay at home and enjoy a steak.
The immediate Disinformation challenges
We face huge challenges. Climate Change and also COVID-19.
We also face a barrage of disinformation.
I’ve been using the words misinformation and disinformation interchangeably. However, just above the use of the word “disinformation” is very deliberate.
Misinformation is information that is wrong but implies no intent to deceive. Many who fall prey to it pass it on as “truth” because they have been successfully conned and not because there is any intent to deceive. Disinformation is the deliberate promotion of information that is known to be wrong. The intent is to deceive and the goal is to manipulate.
The election has presented a classic example of disinformation.
Trump’s stance regarding voter fraud is about him grasping on to and retaining power and control, and pandering to his ego. Long before any votes were cast, he was sowing the seeds of his current stance with disinformation regarding voter fraud. His claims have no basis in fact, and he knows this. The deception is very deliberate.
Many leading Republicans have been forced into survival mode. Trump has stirred up a mob by pressing emotional buttons. Leading Republicans, with an eye on future elections, are operating in their own self interest. They know he is lying. To prevent Trump’s mob turning on them they need to pander to him, not because they wish to keep him on side, but because they need to keep their own voters on side.
Biden’s strategy is the smart move. He has not engaged and given Trump the attention he craves, but instead dismissed it all as irrelevant and is simply getting on with business. The steamroller of reality will do its business in due course.
OK, enough of the serious stuff, let’s play a few games.
Game 1- Go Viral
GO VIRAL! is a 5-minute game that helps protect you against COVID-19 misinformation. You’ll learn about some of the most common strategies used to spread false and misleading information about the virus.
Understanding these tricks allows you to resist them the next time you come across them online.
You can read more about how this works HERE.
Who is behind this game?
You can find the most common myths about COVID-19 debunked HERE.
Game 2- Bad News
This second game is similar.
In Bad News, you take on the role of fake news-monger.
Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate. But keep an eye on your ‘followers’ and ‘credibility’ meters. Your task is to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site. But watch out: you lose if you tell obvious lies or disappoint your supporters!
Who is behind this game?
The game was produced by the Dutch media platform “DROG” in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. They have developed the game to show you how various tactics and methods are used to spread deceitful messages. They believe the best way to cultivate a sixth sense to recognise and expose disinformation is to create it yourself.