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Al Jazeera gamifies Syria’s cyber war with #Hacked app

Media outlet Al Jazeera English has embraced gamification to underline the tumultuous cyber war occurring in Syria out of sight of the larger conflict between government forces and rebels.

Interactive web app #HACKED: Syria’s Electronic Armies, launched to celebrate ten years of investigative journalism from Al Jazeera English, looks to take people inside the country’s cyber war, running alongside its ‘People & Power’ documentary.

It puts them in the shoes of an investigative reporter and looks to document the real dangers facing reporters in the region.

Users are tasked with collecting as much information in a timed challenged by contacting activists, hackers and coders, all of whom appear in the documentary. A dangerous choose-your-own adventure-style game plays out with users question on whether they pay hackers, go under cover, adopt disguises and more.

Juliana Ruhfus, host of People & Power, said of the game: “Whilst recreating the world of an investigative journalist is natural for me, navigating the rules and ethics of journalism in a game format requires an entirely new skill set.”

“Every hack in the app is based on a real hack that has taken place. Texts from hackers have been taken from court documents. The social engineering we use to deceive you in the simulated hacks, how we’re creating an avatar that’s enticing you to click on something, is exactly what happened during Syria’s cyber war.”

The app uses original documentary footage and visual assets to give players real-time news updates on the Syrian War.

The launch comes as the outlet took to Facebook Live to display footage of the conflict to users, hinting at the power of the social media platform in real time video journalism.