Vaccinating against fake news

“I can’t promise I have all the answers, but I definitely have some interesting questions”, said Sander van der Linden, as he proposed the idea that, just as we can vaccinate against viruses, we may be able to do the same with news.

Van Der Linden explained that exposing people to “pre-bunking” (that is, the release of small bits of false information) we may be able to build up a cognitive resistance to fake news.

The Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab argued that “people learn by association”, and explained the premise behind his game Bad News.

The game allows users to “start up their own fake news empire” by disassociating fake headlines from real ones, all based on real-life events. The game, said Van Der Linden, is essentially warning people how not to be duped.

“By exposing people to fake news you are re-establishing their trust in real news” said the psychologist, who argued his vaccination technique can be used to discern what is true and what is fake in this digital age.

If you are interested in fake news please also see Event 192 at 5.30pm on Tuesday 28 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.

 Picture by: Iga Koncke