Jun 8, 2021

4 min read

Untrust Us: Modeling Fake News on Blockchain

A work in progress project of a serious game on journalism and disinformation based on a blockchain platform is presented and discussed. The title of the project is “UNtrust Us”, and it is an alternate reality roleplaying game (ARG) on the Ardor and Twitter platforms. The additional Belarusian ‘extension pack’ invites the participants to distinguish ‘fake’ from ‘true news’ about Belarus. The presenters are inviting feedback from the audience to bring the game into life.

Key points by Ioanna Georgia Eskiadi

“Untrust Us” is a new, innovative project aiming to combat and address online disinformation, to educate and stimulate the public. “Untrust Us” is a game of journalism and disinformation based on a blockchain platform. The game represents an alternate reality roleplaying environment on the Ardor and Twitter platforms. Also, the additional Belarusian ‘extension pack’ invites the participants to distinguish ‘fake’ from ‘true’ news in Belarus.

The game developers aim to model fake news through blockchain by portraying a number of scenarios. “Untrust Us” intersects with the real world to explain what kind of problems emerge from disinformation, if they are in specific conditions, and how to use newsrooms. The main goals of the game are representing the accountability of citizen journalism and the verification of news, to explore how a newsroom functions, and the possible conflicts of power (for example between professional journalists and freelancers, who have less funds and accountability impacting the quality of news), how blockchain technologies work, and ways to implement blockchain in media. In the gaming market, there are a lot of education-based games about fake news and there are plenty of developers and researchers.

“Untrust Us” aims to teach the user about the common fake news that we find in social media and scenarios. Education through games is crucial, as it’s more interesting and normally educational content is able to elaborate further. The outcome is that the learner is exposed to fake news but knows how identify and defend themselves against it in the future. Previous research has shown that these kinds of games really work and that games are more engaging than static educational materials. The importance of the game comes in terms of interactivity. The uniqueness of this game results in having two platforms, almost like real life.

In the game design aspect of the project there are a variety of roles. There are the roles of players like journalists or editors, and the role of the game players, like press club and twitter users. Different and multiple roles enhance the sense of trust in the environment. On blockchain networks, users are using the API codes of the game network that have been acquired through Twitter. Players don’t need to have blockchain skills to play the game. The game presenters can send messages both encrypted and non encrypted through blockchain. They have created restricted utility tokens for trust scores as an approval model to ensure trust and security. The game is in a decentralized network that creates the address with a few sub-accounts. In terms of security, the game has developed a strong identity management with digital identifiers. Further, the uniqueness of the blockchain ensures security to understand that this is not a fake website owned by someone else.

It is incredibly important to learn to cooperate and build a “civic society” in the digital world, as well as offline. There are boundaries that distinguish the game from the reality. In the game we learn to check the news and to verify the credibility of what we see online.

Watch the discussion:

Speakers Bios

Alesha Serada is a PhD student and a researcher at the University of Vaasa, studying construction of value in games and art on blockchain. In their spare time, Alesha writes on late Soviet and post-Soviet visual culture to make it more accessible to the English-speaking academic audience.

Alexander Pfeiffer is currently working as a senior researcher at the center for applied game studies at Donau-Universität Krems, Austria. He is a recipient of a Max Kade Fellowship awarded by the Austrian Academy of Science to work at the MIT Education Arcade, USA in 2019/2020.

This event was co-organized by Digital Communication Network and World Learning and is part of DCNSEE’s Ideas in Action — Digital Engagement, a series of virtual events launched in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

DCN is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Citizen Exchanges. Digital Communication Network created in 2015, is a 7.000 member strong collaborative network that connects professionals from a variety of fields and different regions of the world, committed to have an impact in the new information space.