Months after an internet consortium was launched to address fake news, signatories like Facebook still face criticism over perceived unwillingness to shut down these contents for good. Third-party developers who are not content in taking this sitting down have released Chrome extensions that will warn users if they come across websites or contents that perpetuate fake news and hoaxes.
Fake News And B.S. Detector
The browser extension called Fake News Alert was developed by Brian Feldman, who is also a New York Magazine reporter. The extension joins the B.S. Detector Chrome extension launched last Nov. 15, which specifically targets fake contents and hoaxes at Facebook.
After installing the Fake News Alert extension, readers can expect to see a pop-up window that states "The information on this site might be false or misleading." So far, websites like Infowars and Breitbart have triggered the warning.
B.S. Detector, on the other hand, pops up a more prominent label on a dubious content that states, "This website is considered a questionable source."
Manual Website Listing
The Fake News Alert extension does not rely on sophisticated algorithms to spot fake news and hoaxes. It is based on a list of websites identified by experts as publishers of misleading information. Particularly, Feldman chose the list of unreliable or misleading websites compiled by Melissa Zimdar, a media studies professor. Feldman notes that the list is long, prompting some editing on his part.
"Zimdar's list is expansive, and includes everything from popular satire sites to strongly partisan blogs and aggregators to utterly false bottom-feeders," Feldman said. "It's already been edited to remove some sites that might have been unfairly brought up in the dragnet."
Room For Improvement
It is important to note that the extensions do not have the capability to block websites. It can only issue a warning to the internet-browsing public. Feldman wants to develop the extension further but he said he needs the help of more seasoned developers to create a more sophisticated update.
A number of Chrome users have already began installing the extensions. Some are posting their approval and reactions in their social media accounts.
Everyone put this on your parents' computers over the holidays. https://t.co/KkbHIi6oiP
— Nicolas Gonzalez (@NicoSGonzalez) November 16, 2016
At this point, there are no concrete steps being taken at Facebook, which has been singled out as a platform for fake news during the course of the U.S. presidential elections. Google and other social media websites are so far also silent about the issue.