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Posts Tagged ‘Bad news

“…but no one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly”*…

 

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Most Americans (and indeed, many citizens of dozens of other countries around the world) agree that fake news is a problem…  even if they don’t always agree on which news is fake.

Lots of energy (and money) has gone into trying to stop the flow of of misinformation masquerading as legitimate journalism, and (as that’s proven effectively impossible) into trying to “tag” or label questionable pieces as a warning to readers– an approach that’s also showing little sign of working.

But researchers at the University of Cambridge have taken a cue from medicine and it’s fight against infectious diseases:  if you can’t eliminate the pathogen, make the population immune to it– invent a vaccine…

An online game in which people play the role of propaganda producers to help them identify real world disinformation has been shown to increase “psychological resistance” to fake news, according to a study of 15,000 participants.

In February 2018, University of Cambridge researchers helped launch the browser game Bad News. Thousands of people spent fifteen minutes completing it, with many allowing the data to be used for a study.

Players stoke anger and fear by manipulating news and social media within the simulation: deploying twitter bots, photo-shopping evidence, and inciting conspiracy theories to attract followers—all while maintaining a “credibility score” for persuasiveness.

“Research suggests that fake news spreads faster and deeper than the truth, so combating disinformation after-the-fact can be like fighting a losing battle,” said Dr. Sander van der Linden, Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab.

“We wanted to see if we could pre-emptively debunk, or ‘pre-bunk’, fake news by exposing people to a weak dose of the methods used to create and spread disinformation, so they have a better understanding of how they might be deceived.

“This is a version of what psychologists call ‘inoculation theory’, with our game working like a psychological vaccination.”

To gauge the effects of the game, players were asked to rate the reliability of a series of different headlines and tweets before and after gameplay. They were randomly allocated a mixture of real (“control”) and fake news (“treatment”).

The study, published today in the journal Palgrave Communications, showed the perceived reliability of fake news before playing the game had reduced by an average of 21% after completing it. Yet the game made no difference to how users ranked real news.

The researchers also found that those who registered as most susceptible to fake news headlines at the outset benefited most from the “inoculation”…

Learn more at “Fake news ‘vaccine’ works: ‘Pre-bunking’ game reduces susceptibility to disinformation.”  Then play Bad News.

Readers might also find it instructive to consider the media analogues to the techniques demonstrated by pickpocket-extraordinaire Apollo Robbins in “The Art of Misdirection.”

* James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

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As we contemplate credibility, we might send acerbic birthday greetings to journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson; he was born in Louisville on this date in 1929.  The author of Hell’s AngelsFear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, he is widely credited as the creator of the Gonzo school of journalism (an extreme form of New Journalism in which the reporter isn’t simply present, he/she is central), and widely remembered for his love of inebriates and guns, and for his hate of authoritarianism in general and Richard Nixon in particular.

…the massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.
– Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72  (1973)

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Interestingly, it was also on this date– in 1870– that the First Vatican Council established the dogma of Papal Infallibility.

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Pope Pius IX, during whose Office the dogma of infallibility was established– thus the first officially-infallible Pope

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Train wrecks past…

Lest we think that our own little corner of the space-time continuum is darker or more fraught than most, The Hope Chest is here with “bad news from the past” to remind us that it has been ever thus…

LAUREL, Del., May 21 [1931]–Weathering the severe drouth which hit the agricultural section, Leon Tyndall suffered a severe injury to his foot which sent him to bed after he had tried to jump from beneath a falling tree.
Scarcely had be recovered when he was taken ill with appendicitis, and had to undergo an operation.
Then an automobile truck killed one of his best mules, and he caught his hand in a ripsaw and severely injured several fingers.

Many, many more in The Hope Chest.

As we cautiously count our blessings, we might recall that on this date in 1816, the incomparable Jane Austen responded to a request from the Prince Regent (who had apparently been among the multitude of admirers of  Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, all of which had been published by then) that she write a historical romance, replying that “I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.”

A pencil and watercolor portrait of Jane Austen believed to have been done (c. 1810) by her sister Cassandra

(The foregoing is actually true… still, Happy April Fools Day!)

Written by LW

April 1, 2009 at 1:01 am

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