Hashtag Generation

“Building Resilience Against Misinformation on the Economic Crisis: Insights from Dare to Know”

The economic crisis brought severe challenges to all the citizens of Sri Lanka leading to mass scale protests across the country. Sri Lanka’s economy came to a standstill in 2022 when the country had to default on its debt payment to external creditors. Years of mismanagement of economic policy, finances and public policy were aggravated by tax cuts introduced by the Rajapakse government. Mis-information and dis-information campaigns that mislead the public were rampant during and in the aftermath of the economic crisis. Media was culpable in the spread of misinformation. During election seasons, the mainstream media promoted misinformation and disinformation strategies of certain political parties. All segments of Sri Lankan society including governance, media and the general public resort to misinformation as a tool of furthering their interests. The game, “Dare to Know”, is an initiative that recognises that the citizens in Sri Lanka need to be empowered to counter online misinformation regarding the crisis to make informed decisions for the future. 

The people’s protests (Aragalaya) led to the resignation of the incumbent government and led new leadership to the fore. The protests were caused by the difficulties people faced in terms of day today life due to shortages and queues and the awareness that they deserve better. There were certain initiatives to promote awareness of historical governance failures in Sri Lanka and the necessity for critical thinking. Since the protests, the new government has taken draconian measures to  stifle protests and there have been certain misinformation strategies to mislead the citizens. These misinformation strategies have specially targeted the people’s protest in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of protest as a medium of change. Sadly, the Araglaya also revealed that the media and the general public was still very much polarised. Certain nationalistic and ideologically biassed elements of the public started spreading misinformation on social media, such as that the  protestors were “extremists” and the protest sites contained drugs and used condoms. 

Confronting misinformation with factual information has become a dire need for Sri Lanka’s political, economic and social well being. Scholars have pointed out that media literacy will promote people to identify misinformation and be responsible for what they spread to society (Jayakodi, 2022). Sri Lanka has limited fact checkers so it is vital for the general public to identify misinformation on their own and be diligent in promoting facts.

Overview of the Game:

Hashtag Generation, partnered with Digital Public Square to collaborate on “Dare to Know” which aims at providing credible and factual information about the economic crisis to the citizens of Sri Lanka. The game is designed according to the concept that “Gamification” can make the learning experience more engaging for people, leading to higher retention rate of information. The game is quite fun with user friendly graphics and simplified flow that allows the public to easily follow its path. The design allows the player to pick among three levels of knowledge regarding the economic crisis. Players can play multiple turns, picking different levels of knowledge. 

The typology of questions include Trivia (do respondents know the answer?) and questions that target the opinion (what do respondents think?). This is effective to analyse both the existing knowledge of the players as  well as the way knowledge is perceived differently among different people. In concluding the game players are given feedback about their performance, awareness and certain qualities like .

Motive Behind the Game:

Dare to Know”, is designed to enhance the capacity for critical thinking, awareness, and the practice of confronting misinformation with factual information. There has been a historic deficit in civic, political, economic and financial education in school syllabuses in the country. In addition, traditional education does not encourage critical engagement with existing knowledge or the information disseminated via media sources. At a time when there was an urgent need to address misinformation, it was an educational tool which  empowered individuals to make informed decisions amidst the crisis.

(Table Courtesy of Ratnasabapathy, 2023)

Whilst people were struggling due governance failure and mismanagement, the government did not provide correct information about the origins of the crisis nor the steps they were taking to address the crisis. Therefore, it was crucial that the people were made aware of this wrong. This awareness is linked to action of demanding justice and accountability from the elected representatives of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. It is also hoped that such awareness will lead to better decision making among citizens when it comes to electing public representatives in their respective localities. 

Dare to Know” is directly related to enhancing the capacity of citizens to make better decisions related to governance and economy. This is also a step towards making online learning and unlearning inclusive and interesting for all. 


The lack of forex, overwhelming debt and the debasement of the Rupee meant inability to import necessities like fuel and essential medicines. The government resorted to import restrictions and printing money, causing drastic inflation rates. Many of the players were acutely aware of the inflation and the rise in prices of their consumer goods. 

The preliminary data collected from a month-long testing period of the game revealed that 67.7% of the people who played were not very sure about their awareness regarding the economy. Only 24.5% were certain of their economic know-how. However, after playing the game, respondents showed interest in learning across areas such as economic policies, elections, Sri Lanka’s debt, Government corruption, how the crisis affects them and their loved ones and how they can help. 24.7% of responses said they wanted to learn more about how to help the economic situation. An overwhelming 81.2% believed that inclusive economic and governance reforms are necessary. 2/3rds of players agreed that ordinary people can stop government corruption. These are indicators that the people have the will to change and transform their communities. And with the necessary skills and education they will take the right actions for the collective good. 

Respondents were good at identifying that a headline was not trustworthy; however, identifying what was misleading was a little trickier. The respondents were best at identifying political biases in news, and second best at identifying hate speech. They had the most trouble in identifying sensationalism. This is a further indicator that citizens in the country need more media literacy programmes and educational programmes that empower them to identify misinformation. 

Future Potential:

Currently, the Government should be focussing on sustainable growth, improved productivity, drawing investments, addressing corruption and other people-friendly reforms to overcome this crisis. There is a need to avoid populist policies that provide simplistic solutions to complex problems that cater to short term goals of the politicians rather than long term goals of overcoming the crisis in a people friendly manner. The citizens have to play the critical role of demanding the government hold itself responsible to deliver them from this suffering. 

The data collected through the game showed that it reached an audience from a wide range of educational backgrounds. Potential future directions for “Dare to Know” and similar initiatives could be aimed at promoting both economic literacy and media literacy. Aims such as countering misinformation could be paired with programmes to think critically and value based learning for people to to understand how and why they are misled, and what policy decisions are beneficial to them in the long run. 

Creativity and making the learning process fun, is helpful in promoting retention of information as well as alleviating some of the stresses people face in day-to-day life in a crisis. Opportunities must also be explored for expanding the reach and impact of the game through partnerships, outreach campaigns, or educational programs. This could improve the people’s agency during the crisis and hand them tools to be resilient in the fight for justice. 


Ratnasabapathy, 2023. “Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Causes, Consequences and Cure”. Groundviews. Available at: https://groundviews.org/2023/05/24/sri-lankas-economic-crisis-causes-consequences-and-cure/.

Jayakody. 2022. “Twisted Games: How Smear Campaigns, Disinformation, & Trolls Played Hell During #GoHomeGota2022”. Roar Media Available at: https://roar.media/english/life/current-affairs/disinformation-gohomegota-2022

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