‘This Is Fake’ finding Facebook truth

Created by Slate, it is described as ‘a new tool for internet users to identify, debunk, and—most importantly—combat the proliferation of bogus stories.’

During the landmark 2016 US elections, fake news on Facebook propagated not only ridiculous headlines but some observers argue that it contributed to the overall slant of the election results. From the declaration that former Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had an extra-marital affair with artist Yoko Ono, to another one in big bold letters announcing ‘Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement.’ So how does this news end up getting more hits than updates from real sites?

Kate Bevan, technology writer and broadcaster, in a statement to BBC says, “Facebook’s algorithm prioritises the popular, it doesn’t know how to distinguish between real and not real.” She adds, “It doesn’t care about the quality of a page – if something looks convincing and people are sharing it, that gets prioritized.” This means that even the most sensational of headlines might end up trending on Facebook as long as it is popular enough. Facebook officials on the other hand have taken a noncommittal approach to the situation. On NBC’s Today show a week ago, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said that Facebook does not believe it had any contribution in the outcome of the election, “There’ve been claims that it swayed the election, and we don’t think it swayed the election.”

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Slate’s new Chrome extension ‘This Is Fake’ addresses the problem by quickly exposing fake news with a red flag. The process is described in this way, ‘the [red] banner links directly to an article from a reputable source that debunks the story in question, and it prompts the user to share the debunking as a comment on the offending post.’ Although the number of users of the extension are still low ‘This Is Fake’ shows great promise.

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