On the 19th September, EU DisinfoLab hosted its monthly webinar with Mihai Avram – the co-creator of Fakey – which is a gamified approach to media literacy.

Mihai began his presentation talking about Fakey’s inception. The concept of Fakey came to mind during a chat with Mihai’s advisor Dr. Filipo Menczer from way back when Mihai was a postgraduate student in 2017. They wanted to tackle the emerging problem of mis/disinformation, and inspired by the design of dating apps such as Tinder, Fakey was born.

Fakey is an app that simulates a social media news feed. Users can log into the game using their Facebook or Twitter accounts, or they can choose to play anonymously. Players either “Share,” “Like,” or “Fact-check” a post, and after they click one of these, they find out whether the article came from a legitimate or clickbait source. This gamified approach lets users score points by sharing content from credible news outlets and by fact-checking questionable sources. Depending on the players’ ability to spot false stories, their “skill” rating increases or decreases.

When it came to Fakey’s design phase, Mihai found that users appreciated continuous feedback in order to understand whether the news item was from a legitimate or clickbait source. With this in mind, these features are included in the game as users are reminded which of their choices are wrong, both during and after their session. In this way, Mihai hopes to stimulate behaviour change by prompting users to question the validity and reliability of a news item’s source, with the overall aim of contributing to a more honest information ecosystem.

Legitimate new items come from a variety of sources, such as traditional media, like CNN or The Washington Post, but also from new media, such as The Verge. The sources come from an up-to-date credibility list. This list – curated by expert organisations such as Snopes – includes media from across the political spectrum in order to avoid contributing to polarising views. And since the game uses diversified media with news items, which are updated on a continuous basis, it can be a robust way to consume news.

Alongside improving Fakey, Mihai and Filipo conducted preliminary studies such as the one that looked at the significance of design features in improving a user’s ability to detect whether a news item is mis/disinformation. More specifically, the experiment investigated whether a news item accompanied with an image, a headline, a user engagement indicator, and a source URL, made it easier for a user to spot false news. By removing these design features one by one, they found that in having all of the new item’s features, users were given the best chance to discern between authentic and inauthentic news. Remarkably, not having a photo or a source URL made it more difficult.

During the presentation, Mihai noted that people do not always have time to seek out information to improve their media literacy or help to combat mis/disinformation, which is why the gamified approach works so well. Fakey entices people because of the ability to learn while having fun. Since the app is easy-to-use, improving media literacy is enjoyable yet digestible.

So, what does Fakey’s future look like? Mihai ended the presentation talking about the possibility of Fakey’s expansion to different languages and countries, and expressed his desire to add a versus mode to the game, which would entice users to play with friends.

If you’re interested in playing Fakey, you can play online or download it on your Android or iOS device!