Recently in my COM 416 Propaganda class, we have been discussing the numerous ways in which “fake news” can be spread in the media. We learned that disinformation in the media is when a journalist, news anchor, or public speaker spreads information that is deliberately false or misleading. I wanted to test my own ability to spread disinformation, so I decided to play the “Bad News” game. https://www.getbadnews.com/#next
The objective of this game is to establish your own news site and gain followers for your site by spreading “fake news” and attacking groups in power, while also testing your credibility based on how you choose to proceed with your posts. When you reach a certain objective or goal, you receive a badge saying that you successfully mastered a specific element of spreading disinformation. Depending on how well you do in this game, you have the opportunity to earn 6 badges:
This element of disinformation is when you pretend to be someone else and make yourself seem like a highly credible news source. Because most people don’t actually check the credibility of news sources, it is fairly simple to spread disinformation.
When attempting to spread a message, it is almost always effective to tap into people’s emotions. If someone has strong emotions towards a subject, they will almost always pay attention to what is being said about the subject and respond accordingly. The headlines of viral articles are usually short but sharp in a way that will evoke these followers’ emotions. Most people won’t even read the article and will simply react to what the headline says.
In this game, I was asked to take an existing issue and make it seem like something so much bigger than it actually was by creating disinformation about the subject. This element of disinformation can separate people based on their beliefs in the subject and can easily be exploited by content producers.
Because we are always looking to find out the truth, conspiracy theories will get people talking, whether the theory is accurate or just completely made up. The element of conspiracy in disinformation is a useful tool when attempting to gain followers to your site, no matter how ridiculous the conspiracy may seem.
For my site, I decided to use memes to lure people into my “band of followers” instead of article posts. By simply using bold statements attached to a concerning picture, people became interested and started talking.
After gaining about 5,000+ followers, I entered the point in the game where a fact-checking site attacked my credibility as a news source. I decided the best way to go was to apologize for an misinformation rather than retaliating against the fact-checker. However, I learned that this caused me to lose a decent amount of followers and the best way to go was to strike back. The best solution is to go against the source that is trying to question your credibility and actually discredit them instead.
Similar to Polarization, the element of Trolling attempts to evoke an emotional response in your opponents and expand your “band of followers.” In this game, I attacked the CIA and released a piece of news that questioned some of their motives. By doing this, I caused my followers to become angry with the CIA and remain on my side. The result was the resignation of an important authority figure and thus I successfully spread disinformation.