After the truth came out about the reach of fake new on Facebook during the final months of the election, a web developer proved it is possible to help readers cut through the crap — so to speak.
New York-based development company The Self Agency created a new Chrome extension, named the B.S. Detector, that flashes a little red warning bubble whenever you’re about to click on a link that comes from a questionable, fake or satirical news source.
A BuzzFeed News report found that fake or hyper-partisan election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 of the top major “reputable” news outlets —like New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post and others — combined during the final three months leading into the election.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg famously sidestepped responsibility, publishing a Nov. 12 Facebook post saying, “We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here.”
Well, The Self Agency disagreed.
“[The B.S. Detector] is a project I threw together in under an hour to push back against Mark Zuckerberg's claim that Facebook is unable to do something about the proliferation of fake news on their platform. It is a proof of concept and not a fully developed product,” creator Daniel Sieradski said in a project description on GitHub.
The program, created Nov. 15, works by searching all links on a given webpage for the domains of questionable websites, checking against a manually compiled list of sites known to traffic in fake, parody or un-checked news. It then provides a warning to users when they hover over the link of a questionable site.
Try the B.S. Detector out for yourself by downloading it here.
It’s hard to tell whether a tool like this would have swayed readers away from parody or outright fabricated news stories prior to the election. Well-known fake news writer Paul Horner doesn’t think so.
“His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist,” Horner told The Hill.
Horner said typically when readers share his stories as truth, the lie is exposed, making them seem foolish.
“But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it,” he said.