Psychology, Misinformation, and the Public Square

One idle Saturday afternoon I wreaked havoc on the virtual town of Harmony Square, “a green and pleasant place,” according to its founders, famous for its pond swan, living statue, and Pineapple Pizza Festival. Using a fake news site called Megaphone — tagged with the slogan “everything louder than everything else” — and an army of bots, I ginned up outrage and divided the citizenry. In the end, Harmony Square was in shambles.

I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 minutes of villainy — even laughed outright a few times. And that was the point. My beleaguered town is the center of the action for the online game Breaking Harmony Square, a collaboration between the U.S. Departments of State and…

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