"Troll Factory" games teaches you how fake news is spread - and why

Troll Factory is an entertaining online edugame that shows you how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their corrosive anti-democracy propaganda.

Yle's Troll Factory game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence in social media by spreading fear, bias and suspicion using botnets, paid marketing and internet memes. The game combines authentic social media content with game-like simulation that's personalised based on the user's choices.

Fake news, hate speech and conspiracy theories spread in Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. The big internet behemoths can't stop this from happening. So it's becoming increasingly hard for people to notice when they share, comment or like something inaccurate online -- even unintentionally.

"We decided to turn the whole fake news problem upside down. What if you became an actual troll to understand the motives and intentions behind today's information wars?" says Jarno M. Koponen who's leading the project for the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle's News Lab in Helsinki.

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Why is Twitter's takedown of accounts spreading disinformation from China such a big deal?

My colleague at Institute for the Future, Nick Monaco, wrote a piece about Twitter's announcement that the People’s Republic of China was caught using Twitter to spread disinformation about the Hong Kong protests.

The announcement indicates China’s willingness to use these same underhanded tactics on Western platforms when matters of domestic or foreign policy reach a breaking point. China’s foray into online information operations also further validates a hypothesis advanced by US intelligence chiefs and former US Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland: that Russia’s disinformation campaign targeting the US in 2016 and before has inspired other countries to undertake similar efforts. As other experts have noted, this also raises the probability of China engaging in similar information operations targeting the US presidential race in 2020.

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Junk science promoted by bots and trolls results in North Carolina chickenpox outbreak

North Carolina is reporting the worst chickenpox outbreak since a vaccine for it was introduced more than 20 years ago. Ground zero for the outbreak is the Asheville Waldorf School, where 36 children have come down with chickenpox.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that "the percentage of children under 2 years old who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001," according to the Washington Post. Many of the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children do so under a religious beliefs exemption. "[T]he flare-up demonstrates the real-life consequences of a shadowy debate fueled by junk science and fomented by the same sort of Twitter bots and trolls that spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election."

The claim of an autism risk, though it has been debunked, has remained a rallying cry of the anti-vaccine movement.

“What’s the big deal with chickenpox?” one city resident, Amy Gordon, told the Citizen-Times.

Chickenpox is serious, warns the CDC, “even life-threatening, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.”

Related: Throwing Science At Anti-Vaxxers Just Makes Them More Hardline

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