Facebook has taken major criticism over the past 9 days for allowing the circulation of fake political news written and distributed by foreign scammers looking to cash in on advertising clicks. Mark Zuckerberg has been completely tone deaf to the criticism, stating that the fraction of fake news shared on Facebook is so small in comparison to the real/verified news. What Zuckerberg has failed to grasp/realize is that if one single vote was swayed (in either direction) by fake news then they’ve done their users an injustice.
Facebook and Google have since taken measures to combat the spread of fake news, stating that sources publishing fake news would be banned from using their advertising platforms (FB Advertising and Google’s AdSense), which is definitely a step in the right direction to combat the problem but more needs to be done.
The scammers will always look to try and cash in, and sharing/disseminating fake news to people throughout the election and a group of college students participating in a hackathon held last weekend at Princeton University have essentially fixed Facebook’s fake new problem and they did so in under 36 hours.
via Business Insider:
During a hackathon at Princeton University, four college students created one in the form of a Chrome browser extension in just 36 hours. They named their project “FiB: Stop living a lie.”
Their News Feed authenticity checker works like this, De tells us:
“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.”
The students (Nabanita De of U.Mass Ahmerst, Anant Goel of Purdue, Mark Craft and Qinglin Chen of U.Illinois Urbana-Champaign) have already released their hackathon project as an open source project on Github.
So how does it look when put into action? On the left, you can see a fake news story with dubious sources from a website known to publish fake news, and in the top right of the box you can see that it’s been marked as ‘not verified’. On the right, you can see a verified news source publishing a legitimate story:
Of course, there are pitfalls with this Chrome extension. It could mistakenly name a breaking news source as ‘unverified’ and dissuade the public from believing facts, and it could mislabel legitimate news sources if not used properly.
It’s unreasonable to think that the majority of the population will ever install the same Chrome plugin, or that people sharing fake news on social media are even informed enought to know what a Chrome extension is. But this is definitely a step in the right direction, even if it’s not a final solution to Facebook’s fake news problem.