While Facebook grapples with how to solve its “fake news” problem, two people have created extensions for Google Chrome that flag sites that they believe produce bogus stories on a regular basis.
For anyone unfamiliar with Chrome extensions, they are programs you can download within the Chrome browser that serve various purposes. For example, the AdBlocker extension is incredibly popular as it blocks almost every annoying ad on the Internet.
The first fake news extension, dubbed by creator Daniel Sieradski the “B.S. Detector,” was created shortly after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said fake news was hard to identify and didn’t really have an effect on the election. It flags articles from sites with questionable sources and appears to be relatively unbiased (for example, InfoWars and Occupy Democrats both have their sites listed and they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum).
It took Sieradski only an hour to build, and he threw some serious shade on Zuck for not calling out the fake news problem and for not doing more to combat it earlier.
The second extension, created by New York magazine’s Brian Feldman, is called “Fake News Alert” and can be found here. It puts a little banner at the top of sites that fit into the “questionable” category.
The most important thing to note about both of these extensions (and others that will inevitably pop up soon) is that they’re unlikely to be able to accurately determine the validity of a specific article. Their goal is simply to label sites with questionable history and promote better habits in people who use the Internet to get news, as it’s fairly easy to fall for fake news sites.
What people like Zuckerberg said was too complex to face, two guys started combating in almost no time. If a company with the resources of Facebook puts in a little effort, they’d likely to be able to make a tool that’s much more effective in sorting out fake stories. Not everyone uses Google Chrome or its extensions, so the impact will be limited until sites like Facebook start taking the issue seriously.