This Chrome Extension Flags Fake News Stories Automatically

After facing a scourge of criticism, Facebook is slowly taking steps to correct its struggles with fake news. Owing to inner turmoil at the company, in addition to a fair bit of denial -- CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week dismissed the issue -- the social network’s response has been sluggish, and as a result, bogus news items are still surging across the platform.

But apparently, it wouldn’t take much for Facebook to combat fake news, as a student group recently developed a Chrome extension that can identify false stories pretty quickly and accurately. According to Business Insider, it only took Nabanita De, Anant Goel, Mark Craft and Catherine Craft 36 hours to develop “FiB: Stop living a lie,” during a Princeton University hackathon event.

De told BI how the extension works:

“It classifies every post, be it pictures (Twitter snapshots), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence.

“For links, we take into account the website’s reputation, also query it against malware and phishing websites database and also take the content, search it on Google/Bing, retrieve searches with high confidence and summarize that link and show to the user. For pictures like Twitter snapshots, we convert the image to text, use the usernames mentioned in the tweet, to get all tweets of the user and check if current tweet was ever posted by the user.”

After digesting the story in its algorithm, the extension confirms whether a story is credible or bunk, with a “verified” or “unverified” tag.

While a clever development that’s available for download, the FiB extension, which was conceived and built rather quickly and with limited resources, speaks to the heart of Facebook’s inaction on the question of fake news. In fact, Gizmodo revealed the company had developed a News Feed update that would have ferreted out fake stories and hoaxes, although it was later eliminated, with employees citing a potential backlash among conservative users. When it comes to seeming too partisan, the company has always demurred. 

In a positive note from the company, Facebook announced on Tuesday it was following in Google’s lead by cutting off blatantly fake new websites from their ad networks.

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.