14 January 2020

Trolling for Learning about the Polarization of Public Discourse

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

Recently, there seems to have been news that Finland would be implementing a 4 day working week. This however, was not true as you can see here, How Finland’s fake four-day week became a ‘fact’ in Europe’s media

As all know, fake news is a phenomenon that has become a regular feature in our lives both on  social media and often on the 24-hour news cycle. We also know how this can negatively impact individuals and communities who may become victims to the spreading of news which is not true. 

Where does this leave learners?

Troll Factory is a game to help people learn how to unmask how fake news spreads. It's aim is to promote news literacy, and as Yle's News Lab clarifies: 

"A game developed by Yle’s News Lab team takes users into the dark underbelly of social media information operations, where likes and shares are hard currency for online trolls looking to sow fear, bias and suspicion.

Titled "Troll Factory", the game aims to promote digital media literacy, especially among people who don’t consume traditional news, and helps social media users understand how they play a role in spreading false information -- even unintentionally.

Players learn to wield the tools that trolls use as they seek to influence public opinion: botnets, paid marketing and internet memes in a realistic mobile setting. This gives them an opportunity to reflect on their real-life choices, and to better understand the consequences of their actions."

This is not a game for young learners, but more appropriate for more mature learners who may be college or university students, and as always, the degree of appropriacy will depend on each particular context. Whether this helps curb the spread of trolling and fake news, depends very much on each individual and context as well. Nevertheless, as educators, giving learners the opportunity to experiment and learn, to help students understand the how media may be manipulated, is increasingly part of our teaching practices. 

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