back to article We've found a ‘vaccine’ for fake news. Wait! No, we really are Cambridge researchers

Researchers at Cambridge University believe a psychological "vaccine" could help prevent the spread of "fake news" - in a study that on the face of it might also pass for a bogus story. The research found that by pre-emptively exposing readers to a small "dose" of the misinformation can help organisations cancel out fake news …

TRT
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Does this technique extend...

to other "net nasties"? Like pr0n, for example.

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Coat

I'm willing to submit to a test to find out.

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Re: Does this technique extend...

I don't think it'll work because some people actually like fake tits & photoshopped glamour shots..

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Holmes

So, fight propaganda with propganda, then

Hmm, this seems eerily familiar.

"This is the BBC World Service, bringing you the 'weather' report. Honest."

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Re: So, fight propaganda with propganda, then

"This is the BBC World Service, bringing you the 'weather' report. Honest." .... Oh Homer

Howdy, Oh Homer,

Moving the Greater IntelAIgent Game on a few quantum bits has the current powering situation and present globalisation abomination ..... ."This is the BBC World Service, bringing you the 'whether' report. Honest."

But what else would you expect, in this day and age of little Hitlers in these wild wacky western virtual spaces, from a nation of shopkeepers with king and queen wannabes. Is that too brutally honest and one of those new fangled quantum entangling alternative facts which aren't outright lies?

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Re: So, fight propaganda with propganda, then

Didn't George Orwell have something to say about this?

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Real fake or fake fake?

> We wanted to see if we could find a ‘vaccine’ by pre-emptively exposing people to a small amount of the type of misinformation they might experience. A warning that helps preserve the facts

And who do we trust to provide these true examples of "real" fake news?

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Re: Real fake or fake fake?

Yup, welcome to life behind the irony curtain.

I notice that other reports of this 'news' (ie. Yahoo!, Phys.org) focus on what they call "the reality of Climate Change". They suggest inoculating people against the Global Warming Petition Project by telling them "many of the 31,000 signatories to the petition were fake, with names such as Charles Darwin and members of the Spice Girls cropping up". This is itself false.

Also, no reporters of this 'news' (including El Reg) carry any links to the original research. Just sayin'.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Blimfield

"Also, no reporters of this 'news' (including El Reg) carry any links to the original research"

We normally link to research - I've added the URLs to the article.

C.

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Re: Real fake or fake fake?

Over here for many years is was Faux News. Now I'm not so sure who's NOT doing fake news.

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WTF?

Re: Real fake or fake fake?

"And who do we trust to provide these true examples of "real" fake news?

What would make you think this "vaccine technique" would be limited to "news"? Should work equally well on ideas.

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Re: Real fake or fake fake?

> "Over here for many years is was Faux News."

And ironically we have now seen that it's the other major TV news that fakes stuff, and has been for "years." Why do you suppose the ratings of "Faux" is now double or triple the combined ratings of their competitors? Oh right, they're the liars. It's well known that news orgs that consistently lie see their ratings go up and up, while the honest ones drop into the toilet.

Well no, that isn't how it works, and Fox news is wiping the floor with the other networks because now people can check the veracity of TV news, and Fox is seen as closer to reality than those old networks that haven't accepted that their bias, and now their transparent Democrat partisanship aren't flying anymore.

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@Big John -- Re: Real fake or fake fake?

So if I read you rightly... you're saying Fox is the only news org not reporting fake news then?

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Meh

Re: @Mark 85

What part of "closer to reality" don't you understand? Must I confine myself to words of one syllable just for your benefit?

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Re: Real fake or fake fake?

How can you have a fake idea exactly?

An idea is just that, an idea. Whether it's any good or not has to be tested, but an idea can never be fake...

The creator of the idea could be faked of course...

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There is another way

You could, just for example, try 'preemptively' educating your people to a decent standard. That seems to work pretty well for countering the kind of bollocks you get on fringe websites from both sides of the ideological divide.

We need to stop thinking about education purely in terms of STEM and start recognizing that social sciences and humanities are useful for countering propaganda and fake news. The relentless efforts to destroy these subjects since the 1980s (defunding them, cutting research grants, and generally just ignoring them in policy making) are pretty much why large chunks of the US population is now incapable of telling the difference between the New York Times and www.deplorablepatriotnews.com.

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Re: There is another way...

"The relentless efforts to destroy these subjects [science and humanities] since the 1980s ... are pretty much why large chunks of the US population is now incapable of telling the difference between the New York Times and www.deplorablepatriotnews.com."

Unfortunately, I think even well-educated people fall victim to echo-chamber and subconscious bias effects. In my part of the USA, there is an anomalously high number of people who refuse to let their children receive medical vaccinations.

The thrust of the research seems to be that providing examples of fallacious arguments and why they're wrong can help people overcome echo-chamber and bias effects. In other words, an article on vaccination may include something like "You may hear arguments linking vaccination with autism; these arguments are based on a single fraudulent study by Andrew Wakefield, an unscrupulous researcher who manipulated his results, and was later barred from medical practice."

However, I applaud your support for scientific literacy. Certainly it's good to know why peer-reviewed research trumps (ha!) a blog post.

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Re: There is another way @ Naselus

But your proposal would actually enable and even encourage the citizenry to [gasp!] think for themselves?!?

Smashing!

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Re: There is another way...

What do we Want?

Evidenced based change!

When do we want it?

After peer review!

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If I post a fake news story, how can anyone preempt it by posting a less fake snippet?

Unless they can see into the future and then why don't they just buy winning lottery tickets rather than work for a thankless, faceless organisation?

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Anonymous Coward

Will that work on people who does not believe in any kind of vaccines?

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Who's on first?

Fake news is quite predictable. For instance, the fuss over numbers attending President Trump's inauguration - although it is rattling that the White House is doing he lying about that and you can see it yourself in the photographs. And for protesters - it's now routine that someone takes a pose of discrediting the protest by placing advertisements offering (untruthfully) to pay people for protesting. So, like that.

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"Will that work on people who does not believe in any kind of vaccines?"

Yes, but you have to dilute it. Many times. Many, many, many times.

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The US view ...

How well does this work in a country where the population believes that believes the vaccines don't work, the moon landings were faked, wrestling is real and Trump won the popular vote?

I'd love to see it work but I'm very cynical about this mess - I can see it being turned on itself - if Trump can be shown to have left the Martin Luther King bust in his office then his estimates of the size of the inaugural crowds must also be correct ...

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Re: The US view ...

"the population"? Really?

Believes that vaccines don't work: the CDC shows rates over 90% vaccination in 2015 for a number of the recommended childhood vaccinations, over 80% for others. See https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6539a4.htm#T1_down.

Believes the moon landings were faked: That must be why Gene Cernan's death went unnoticed.

Wrestling is real: I think my my grandmother briefly believed in the reality of "professional wrestling" about the last mid-century, until she asked my my grandfather and father were laughing so hard. Since high school I haven't spend a lot of time with people who watch it. But my classmates would probably have said: a) of course it's fake; b) it does involve real athleticism; c) people do sometimes get hurt, but you watch it for the fake pain, not the real. Were they outliers?

Trump: Even Trump seems to know that Clinton got more votes.

But otherwise, sure.

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Re: The US view ...

When someone categorically states untruths about entire populations they are not worth responding to.

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Not The Nine O'Clock News

If anything sounds like "fake news" it's an "inoculation against fake news"...

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Re: Not The Nine O'Clock News

See it's working already!

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Facepalm

Good grief ...

"Social psychologists believe that, following the logic of medical vaccines, the public can be “inoculated” against misinformation."

So, using the same "logic", it follows that being shot with a small calibre pistol, makes you immune to shellfire.

If they will believe that, then I have a bridge they might be interested in ...

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Re: Good grief ...

Beat me to it.

Yeah - confusing mental processes with physiological responses pretty much wrote "snake-oil salesman" all over this guff.

Most people who "believe" fake news do so because they want to because it would be much more convenient for them if it was real.

Remember David Irving - the court case pretty much proved that he denied the holocaust despite knowing for sure that it happened.

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"Real" News from the BBC in 2007:

Warming 'opens Northwest Passage'

Historically, the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has been ice-bound through the year. But the agency says ice cover has been steadily shrinking, and this summer's reduction has made the route navigable....

Esa says... this made the passage "fully navigable" for the first time since monitoring began in 1978.

"Fake" News:

From 1906:

Amundsen traverses the Northwest Passage and wrote in his diary: “The Northwest Passage was resolved. My boyhood dream – in that moment, it had come true… I burst into tears".

From 1977, sailor Willy de Roos travelled the Northwest Passage in his 13.8 m (45 ft) steel yacht Williwaw.

From 1981, Ranulph Fiennes and Charles R. Burton completed the Northwest Passage, the first open boat transit from west to east.

In 1984, the commercial passenger vessel MS Explorer became the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.

In 1986, Jeff MacInnis and Mike Beedell sailed the 18-foot catamaran Perception in a 100-day sail, west to east, through the Northwest Passage, the first to sail the passage.

Et cetera

“If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed.” — Mark Twain

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Coat

"In 1984, the commercial passenger vessel MS Explorer became the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage."

It got that far without crashing? Must've AdBlock and NoScript installed!

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Open your passage

Probably the muddled details of the "north west passage" story are, (1) explorers go in special "ice breaker" ships (and get stuck anyway), (2) explorers may greatly exaggerate their achievements especially but not exclusively if no one else is there to see, (3) there's a difference between "passage open in summer" and "passage open in winter". And (4) people nowadays cheerfully make up lies about this sort of thing and it makes baby jesus cry.

I could pursue the question but I do not expect to persuade you of anything and anyway I don't care. Be your own climate change sceptic sceptic one day a week if you like, at first. It may grow on you.

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Yup, it's working...

Already I can feel the 'bollocks' antibodies circulating in my bloodstream.

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Coat

"Never believe anything you read on the Internet" ~ Albert Einstein.

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Anonymous Coward

Huh.

I could swear that either Lincoln or Plato said that.

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None of this is real...

It's too bad that most news tends to be "fake news" these days. All the big news sources would want you to believe that fake news is something spread by a few niche sites, but really, most of what they post is also heavily-biased and poorly-researched nonsense designed to manipulate people into falling in line with their their ideals. Rather than report what's happening in a fair and unbiased way, getting the story from both sides of an argument and leaving it up to the viewer to decide what's right, practically every story gets a spin put on it, and tries it's hardest to incorporate sensationalism and a clickbait title in an attempt to go viral and bring in ad revenue. Even this whole "fake news" story that's been going around seems like little more than a way for news sites to attempt to legitimize themselves. "Oh hey, you guys hear about that fake news some sites are spreading? You should only come to us for your news. We would never try to manipulate you like those other guys!"

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Re: None of this is real...

most news tends to be "fake news" these days

These days?

How does so much [false news] get into the American newspapers, even the good ones? Is it because journalists, as a class, are habitual liars, and prefer what is not true to what is true? I don't think it is. Rather, it is because journalists are, in the main, extremely stupid, sentimental and credulous fellows -- because nothing is easier than to fool them -- because the majority of them lack the sharp intelligence that the proper discharge of their duties demands.

From HL Mencken's Prejudices: A Selection, p. 220 published in 1919.

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Re: None of this is real...

"It's too bad that most news tends to be "fake news" these days. All the big news sources would want you to believe that fake news is something spread by a few niche sites, but really, most of what they post is also heavily-biased and poorly-researched nonsense designed to manipulate people into falling in line with their their ideals."

I must admit, I do take issue with the hijacking of the term "fake news" to mean any story that's not "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". We've all grown up knowing that most mews sources are biased in one direction or another and have learned to take that into account. But there has been a marked increase in actual "fake news" since the WWW arrived, most especially in recent years. Conflating editorial or political bias with outright lying is not helping.

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The kernel of truth

A good lie usually has some kernel of truth in it.

"Fake News" is a problematic concept because language itself always lacks precision. A actual vaccine is NOT what the Cambridge researchers are suggesting, for example, but some dick hole is going to take it way too literally. I also noticed that in a published list of "fake news" sites, The Onion was right there, in alphabetical order with the rest.

I THINK I get what they're trying to say. That if reporters include a few bullet points like "...and this is what this DOESN'T mean" to a difficult topic, then it's less likely to be misinterpreted.

The larger problem, though, is that people simply don't take personal responsibility for finding shit out. It's The Onion's fault, apparently, that they can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground. I don't think any reporter in the world can write himself around that that kind of fortress of willful ignorance.

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The Onion

One or two Onion stories a year get passed around as factual, maybe as a prank initially but then by people who take it as true. It does belong on a "web site of news that is not true" list.

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Black Helicopters

Is this about fake news, or hidden ways of censorship?

"The study, of more than 2,000 US residents, presented participants with two claims about global warming. Researchers found that when presented consecutively, the influence well-established facts had on people were cancelled out by bogus claims made by campaigners."

And what "facts" would that be, considering that global warming is one of the most hottest topics for debate around the world right now?

My problem with this study is that it fully avoids the main issue: not relying fully on a single source of information, but instead also being able to challenge and question it. Even if the news you hear is something you might like or can agree with. Always be a little skeptical about the things you see and hear around you.

But it seems that this study fully seems to focus on people who "need" to be able to follow (and trust) one single news source. Call me skeptical if you will, but all that will achieve is making it easier to apply censorship. If people stop being skeptical and blindly believe what they hear "because the news source is trustworthy" then it will only be a matter of time before someone feeds them with different news through that same "trusted" news source.

The kind of news which doesn't have to be totally untrue, but which might suit their purposes just a little bit better.

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Re: Is this about fake news, or hidden ways of censorship?

"And what "facts" would that be, considering that global warming is one of the most hottest topics for debate around the world right now?"

Really? I thought the debate was fairly settled on "climate change is happening" and that global warming (leading to wetter weather etc) was definitely happening.

If it's caused (or how much the cycle is influenced) by human activity is still being argued, but that seems fairly clear to most people.

What should be done is definitely not settled, still being debated, yadda yadda.

As for the whole "fake news" shebang, it's interesting what is considered fake and what isn't (despite not being true). Cameron and the pig was clearly bollocks, utterly unsupported by any evidence, but everyone ran with it, because it was funny.

People also prefer lies/fake news/alternate facts because the truth often is complex and fails to support whatever view someone is expressing without a spot of selective editing. Eg: USAians are super litigious even when it's clearly their own fault using the example of McDonalds hot coffee, even though the facts of that case point to the opposite, that serving food or drink at too high temperature in flimsy containers is dangerous. Or bitching about H+S while ignoring how many lives it has saved. Or the whole brexit campaign, on both sides.

A lie can get around the world twice before the truth gets it's boots on and all that.

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Re: Is this about fake news, or hidden ways of censorship?

@monkeycee : I thought the debate was fairly settled on "climate change is happening"

It is but parts of the media consider they are obliged to present the counter argument. They will gladly put up a total nutter with no credible scientific research base to present "the other side of the debate" against thousands of peer reviewed scientific research papers, detailed statistics, serious investigation. The media consider that to represent "balance".

Rational debate, scientific evidence, logic are soundly Trumped by an appeal to self interest, prejudice, emotion.

The work of thousands of scientists with high quality scientific peer reviewed research papers is dismissed at a stroke by finding one guy who claims to be a scientist who claims to have done an experiment that shows a different outcome - and that outcome is the story people want to hear (The Wakefield & Autism situation being an example - there is a sector of society who has long held a dislike and suspicion of vaccination).

I remember when seat-belts were made compulsory in UK, there were people opposed because, despite the number of lives saved and the reduction in injuries there were one or two instances where the seat belt had reportedly exacerbated the injuries. There were plenty of people stupid enough to conclude that therefore it's better not to wear a seat belt.

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Goodbye to internet goodwill

The early internet was dominated by coders, scientists, and idealists who were enthusiastic about sharing knowledge. By now, everyone got online and started making 'content', so the internet is only as honest as the real world. Better get used to it.

Believing news on random websites / twitter / facebook is a bit like accepting a flyer on the sidewalk and directly accepting that scientology / latter day saints / the spaghetti monster offers you a path to salvation.

Why do we come to ElReg? Because this island of nerds still maintains some semblance of the early internet.

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Re: Goodbye to internet goodwill

"Why do we come to ElReg? Because this island of nerds still maintains some semblance of the early internet."

Yes but sadly the idiots have found their way here too now, mostly just using the thumbs up/down.

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Fake science, it's not new. Newton would not be happy as it comes from Cambridge.

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And their "fact" is not a fact

" "97% of scientists agree on humanmade climate change." That's the "fact" they demand people accept - and of course it isn't a fact at all. One clue is in the term "humanmade" but the other is the failure to define which scientists, or precisely what they are agreeing to. And if we dig into the origins of this dubious stat we find it's pure cobblers. Watts Up With That has a good debunking

There's a war going on for your mind. This "vaccine" is probably the daftest weapon yet unleashed, but I imagine the nastiest ones will never be discussed. The scariest remains the MSM, which seems unable to distinguish truth from lie itself.

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Cambridge Researchers cure for 'misinformation' - Ha!

As if the Cambridge researchers could recognize mis-information if it hit them in their faces. I strongly suspect that their dogmatic views on global warming are dominated by the IPCC and the complicated and error-filled models used to produce the desired results - ie.,that man-made CO2 is the only culprit that matters. Hang the economically harmful results of carbon-taxing, banning of coal, natural gas or petroleum and nuclear fuel, and even water-power, based energy production, as well as the risks and excessive publicly paid-for costs associated with windmills and solar panels. If I turn out to be wrong here, I will apologize. Fat Chance!

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