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Bad News browser game aims to help players identify fake news

In this age of conspiracy theories and fake news, it can be difficult to know who to trust. With this in mind, the University of Cambridge's Bad News is a game designed to help players spot falsified stories online. 

Charged with building their own hypothetical social media platforms, Bad News has players juggling inflammatory headlines, misleading quotes and doctored images in a bid to spread misinformation. Here's what it's all about as per the browser-based game's 'About' tab:

In this game you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the 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.

In conversation with the BBC, Dr Sander van der Linden, the director of the University of Cambridge's Social Decision-Making Laboratory, underscored how the game reflects reality. 

"These techniques are out there, they are being used by real people," van der Linden says. "What we're trying to do is demystify and illuminate what these techniques are, how to spot them, how to recognise them, and not be influenced by them... If you go and see a magic show, the first time you are duped if you don't know how it works. But when the magician explains the trick to you, you won't be fooled again the next time around."

Van der Linden suggests Bad News aims to maintain an ideological balance by including both left and right wing-leaning options and outcomes. "It doesn't matter if you attack the left or the right," van der Linden adds, "because you're trying to polarise people."

Play Bad News in your browser over here. Half-Life 3 confirmed.