Fake news is real. The term “fake news,” though, is more problematic. The 2016 election cycle brought the term into the mainstream, though many are still misusing the term loosely to describe a wide variety of stories. Some are rooted in fact. Some are not. Think you have what it takes to tell the difference? Check out this app: Factitious.
Factitious was conceived by Maggie Farley and built by game designer Bob Hone. “People have always been trying to manipulate information for their own ends,” the veteran journalist says. Now, though, the stakes are higher. Farley calls this “Fake news with a capital F.”
“Before, the biggest concern was, ‘Are people being confused by opinion; are people being tricked by spin?’ ” Farley told NPR.
The game’s intention is clear. Check out some articles, see how well you spot the fakes.
“The game’s interface mimics the dating app Tinder, which made swiping famous,” NPR reports. “On a phone, players swipe left when they think the article in front of them is fake, and right when they believe it’s real.”
Farley had originally built the tool for middle and high school students, the type of people who may be exposed to news of all sorts but who may not have developed the critical thinking skills needed to make solid determinations about veracity.
How does the game determine what is or isn’t fake? It begins with source material. Are there credible sources? After that, are there verifiable quotes? In other words, can the information be verified? If so, it stands a higher chance of being legit.
“We’re not going to solve the fact that there are two different realities being told right now,” Hone says. “But if there are people in the middle … open to asking questions, I want to empower them.”
We put the game to the test. Each story appears with a link to the source material. Knowing where an article comes from makes it much easier to decide, so don’t click that link. And most of these articles appear to be 100% verifiable or 100% fake, as in made-up. There isn’t opinion or spin mixed in.
And that is the logical next step. While spotting a story with made up quotes is an important skill, it is harder to see through the intentions of skilled journalists who manipulate the verifiable fact for their own ends.