Play a fake news game from NATO's strategic communications experts!

The Rīga-based NATO Strategic Communications Centre (sic) of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE or sometimes StratCom COE) has a new offering: a Facebook game that invites you to enter the wild, wacky and worrying world of fake news.

It is called "The News Hero".

"NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence introduces its new indie game designed to train readers to identify misinformation published online," says information strategically released July 24.

The game is hosted on Facebook and is open to all users of Facebook, which has famously been used in various fake news and propaganda efforts and has in the past leaked user information about millions of its subscribers. However, hopefully the hackers and their backers will not be monetizing the STRATCOMCOE-generated clicks or using them to rig any elections or referendums.

"Players are put in charge of their own publishing company, they earn virtual currency and gain an audience for publishing accurate news," says a description of the game's rules which we can only wish applied in real life, too.

The game is divided into three levels, each encouraging the players to think about the possible ways they could be fooled. A Fact Checker screen prompts players to question the sources and provides tips on how to distinguish between an accurate and a misleading story.

It also features X-Files type music and a bearded personal assistant called, er, "Bronco", who is a little bit too familiar, if you ask us.

"The NATO StratCom COE hopes to burst the bubble of an elite dominated discussion about critical thinking and empower the society to become more conscious users of media through a gamified approach," says the press release, introducing us to the word "gamified" in the process.

"The idea of the game comes from a public hackathon NATO StratCom COE organized in May 2017. The hackathon aimed to develop prototypes of technical solutions that would prevent disinformation spread. The game intends to enhance readers’ resilience against disinformation," the release adds.

At LSM we gave it a try and quickly made several billion dollars by running stories about killer squirrels which we converted into cryptocurrency via a network of offshore accounts and complaisant banks.

Or did we?

The NATO StratCom COE was initially founded by Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and the United Kingdom in 2014. The Netherlands and Finland joined the Centre in 2016, Sweden in 2017. Canada, France and Slovakia are set to join in 2018.

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