How to spot fake news online with one handy Chrome extension

18 Nov 2016

Clickbait concept. Image: Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock

The world is coming to the realisation that there is a lot of fake news on the internet, but now a Google Chrome extension can tell you when something is ‘BS’.

Online media has been unprecedented in the way it has changed how we consume information about current events.

No more noticeably than on Facebook, where over half of its users in some cases admit that they receive the vast majority of their news from the source.

An extension of people’s demands

Following the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, critics have been quick to point the finger of blame at the social network and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, for not doing enough to stop the spread of fake news on people’s news feeds.

While Zuckerberg remained on the defensive over the influence it had in the US elections, the company found itself in the midst of a mutiny earlier this week, as its employees disagreed with their boss and formed an anti-fake news taskforce.

Now, other developers are getting in on the action to help us filter out shared news stories that clearly have no basis in fact, with a handy Chrome extension.

Developed by Daniel Sieradski, the BS detector is an extension hosted on Product Hunt, which was made using a list of sites that are accused of biased or outright false information across the political spectrum.

As soon as one of these websites appears on your timeline, a message will appear above it saying: “This website is considered a questionable source.”

Infowars screenshot

Screenshot of the BS Detector in action. Image: Product Hunt

A starting point

“I built this in about an hour yesterday after reading [Mark Zuckerberg’s] BS about not being able to flag fake news sites. Of course you can. It just takes having a spine to call out nonsense,” Sieradski wrote about his creation.

“This is just a proof of concept at this point, but it works well enough.”

Despite Zuckerberg’s previous dismissive comments, recent research conducted by BuzzFeed found that the top 20 fake election news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 other major news outlets.

According to the data, some of the claims made against both presidential candidates that really caught the attention of the public included the rumour that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS, and that Donald Trump received support from Pope Francis.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic