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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
EditorialsUp Front 03/18

Up Front 03/18

I found myself searching the internet recently to see what cheering things we might look forward to in the coming months. As ever, sporting events were high on many of the lists. The first to feature was the Winter Olympics, which as Humphrey Walwyn points out on page 47 might not be to everyone’s taste—not all of us know the difference between an ‘alley-oop flatspin five’ and a ‘double-cork 1260’. Then there was the football World Cup in Russia in June and July to look forward to, but with England not participating this time, that may be less enticing. We could, of course, look forward to a new Royal baby or a celebrity-style Royal wedding—but that’s not really sport is it? However, one big sports story is the inclusion of eSports in the Asian Games, a Pancontinental multi-sport event in Jakarta in August. Many observers expect this to pave the way for full Olympic inclusion in the future of what most of us know as video-gaming. It makes you wonder what the ancient Greeks might have thought. You may even be wondering whether talk of the inclusion of digital games in the Olympics is true or not. Thankfully, for the sceptics amongst us, a new game has recently been produced by researchers at the University of Cambridge to test players’ ability to spread fake news. Entitled ‘Bad News’, the hope of the researchers is that by using the game players will learn to spot what is true and what is not, therefore in a sense, inoculating themselves from the effects of fake news. The inventors like to describe it as a sort of ‘vaccine’. The game encourages players to stoke anger, mistrust and fear in the public by manipulating digital news and social media within the simulation. Players build audiences for their fake news sites by publishing polarising falsehoods, deploying twitter bots, photo-editing evidence, and inciting conspiracy theories in the wake of public tragedy—all while maintaining a ‘credibility score’ to remain as persuasive as possible. You can guess where this is going. Some might say ‘Bad News’ should have been an Olympic sport years ago but imagine it joining the range of eSports that one day become part of the Olympics. Imagine the crowds flocking to see their fake news heroes pitting their wits against teams from other countries. Imagine the flag-waving and the tears on the podium, the interviews with the proud, emotional parents and the lap of honour holding an iPhone aloft. Or, on the downside, imagine being disqualified for cheating. Now that would be ‘Bad News’.

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