NATO battles fake news, one video game at a time
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 27, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — The road to the land of online gaming tedium is paved with good intentions.
At the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Latvia, a hub focused on countering misinformation campaigns, an online game has been launched to help citizens learn to identify fake news.
The game, called The News Hero, is hosted on Facebook and allows players to assume the role of a news publisher.
The user is responsible for putting together a newspaper free of the phony. With the help of trusty assistant Bronco, you decide what is real and what is fake.
For NATO, the issue of false information is a serious one.
For example, when new multinational battlegroups deployed to the Baltics last year, suspicious reports emerged that German soldiers were responsible for raping a Lithuanian teenager. Allies suspected Russia of planting the story, which was quickly debunked, in an effort to undermine NATO support in the area.
In recent years, the U.S. and its allies have pointed to various Russian news outlets as purveyors of phony information designed to undermine faith in western institutions. In response, allies have looked for ways to fight more effectively on the information battlefield.
The NATO center in Latvia “hopes to burst the bubble of an elite dominated discussion about critical thinking and empower the society to become more conscious users of media through a gamified approach,” the center said in a statement.
But fake news busting can be a bit of a bust, at least when it feels more like human resources-mandated training than the stylish games that have called many among this generation to their customized gaming chairs.
Is Justin Timberlake really an anti-vaccination activist? Did a lady in Detroit really train a squirrel to attack her boyfriend?
In The News Hero, you have to decide — though a fact-checker does most of the thinking for you.
If you’re right, you gain virtual currency and a larger audience as reader trust grows for your news organization. If only it were so easy in the perilous real news world, where profits are elusive and clickbait an ever-growing lure.
The game is available on Facebook.