With the advent of “fake news,” it’s become difficult to trust the content you see on a daily basis. So much so that major technology companies are seeking misinformation-filtering solutions.
For example, Microsoft recently added an extension to their Edge web browser that alerts users when a site their visiting has been accused of publishing inaccurate information. Even the fake news capital of the net, Facebook, has assured users that the company is combating misinformation on their platform.
But beyond the major tech players, there are small-scale operations taking up the fight against fake news.
A Neutral Extension that Sniffs Out Bias
Nobias is a new, free extension for Google Chrome designed to detect fake news on the sites you visit. The extension page describes Nobias as a “Fitbit for your media diet,” and has several built-in checkers that alert users to what kind of content they are consuming.
The extension’s Political Slant Checker marks articles as left, right, or center-leaning and highlights their ideological leanings with a pop-up bubble. According to TechRadar, Nobias’ algorithm uses a peer-reviewed methodology developed by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro.
The program analyzes speeches by politicians and highlights keywords said by liberals or conservatives. The Nobias algorithm reviews the text and makes a determination if it is left, center, or right-leaning based on those keywords (or dog whistles).
Nobias also has a Credibility Checker based on LexisNexis databases for the most accurate and reputable news sources. The feature essentially flags tabloid journalism. Nobias even goes so far as to determine the credibility of the publication. The extension gives a rank to an outlet on a scale of one to five using LexisNexis’ source rankings. High ranking publications like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times receive a one, the best score.
The extension also analyzes the credibility of individual writers. Nobias determines journalist credibility based on their employer rating and if they have any industry awards on their mantles.
“Readers are drowning in so much online information that it is almost impossible to keep track of what is credible and what isn’t,” Dr. Tania Ahuja, CEO of Nobias told TechRadar. “Algorithms create positive feedback loops, only showing us what they think we like. As a result, we are all living in information bubbles, which polarize us against each other and keep us underinformed.”
A Better Way to Navigate the Internet
For Nobias, their overarching goal is not to change the news. Rather, their broader ambition is ensuring people have access to high-quality information.
“We are not changing news, nor are we controlling how our customers find it or limiting what they read,” said Ahuja. “Our mission is to help our customers be proactive about developing their own informed, unique point of view.”
At the time of writing, Nobias is only on Chrome. But the extension will be available on Firefox, Safari, and Opera in the near future.