Fake news and misinformation are everywhere. It seems like every time breaking news emerges, there are also fake or misleading stories being spread right alongside factual information (oftentimes via social media).
What is a person to do? Well, there are some easy steps the average person can take to remain vigilant. It is vital that everyone should learn to identify and prevent fake news, why not let something else do the work for you if that option is available?
In the United States, the majority of adults (90+%) get at least some news online via mobile or desktop, according to a Pew Research Center report. Folks who get their news exclusively from mobile devices will have to manually identify and prevent fake news; but if you use a computer to get your news, consider installing a fake news-related browser extension.
Put your browser to work!
There are many fake news browser extensions available, but two prominent ones are NewsGuard and Media Bias Fact Check. They may not be 100% accurate (or you may not agree with them 100%), but they do a wonderful job of flagging sources that are suspicious, biased, untrustworthy, etc. The two browsers don’t compete with each other. Rather, they are great companions to each other.
NOTE: NewsGuard has moved to a paid, member-supported model. However, the browser extension should still be available for free to libraries and schools.
Are you having trouble deciding if a website is sharing the truth? Well, NewsGuard, a news literacy program, has been launched with support from Microsoft. Staffed by almost 40 reporters and dozens of freelancers, the NewsGuard team diligently examines thousands of websites based on nine widely accepted, journalistic criteria designed to minimize human bias and subjectivity. The results determine a website’s rating.
Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard Technologies’ co-founders and co-CEOs, joined forces to give this program a human face rather than relying on algorithms to determine what we see. NewsGuard is the opposite of an algorithm. People with journalistic backgrounds are reviewing the sites. “Algorithms don’t call for comment,” says Brill. NewsGuard, on the other hand, gives plenty of explanation about their ratings.
NewsGuard works as a browser plug-in/ extension, giving credibility ratings to thousands of websites. A user simply downloads the extension on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. Sorry, Internet Explorer, users. If you are reading this, it is time for you to abandon IE and go with a much superior browser.
After the extension is added, the NewsGuard icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser. The rating icons will appear on websites, Google searches, and Facebook and Twitter when website articles are used.
By hovering over the colored icon, a “Nutrition Label” appears. This label explains how NewsGuard decided the website’s rating. Ratings and label information are updated regularly, and whenever a site changes its practices, the icon will be adjusted accordingly.
The NewsGuard website contains plenty of information, including a section dedicated to news literacy; and on this page, NewsGuard makes a compelling argument for libraries, educators, parents, etc. to add the browser extension to their computers.
The NewsGuard browser extension can be downloaded from their website: https://www.newsguardtech.com/
According to its website, Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) was founded in 2015 and “is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting.” MBFC’s methodology and additional information are available on their website.
The MBFC browser extension is not as comprehensive as NewsGuard, but it does excel in one area that is more hidden on NewsGuard: bias. After the extension is added, the MBFC icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser.
When visiting a news-related website or reading an article, the browser extension will prominently display a color-coded icon indicating its bias. Clicking on the icon will reveal more information about the source.
The Media Bias Fact Check browser extension is only available for Chrome (a Firefox version exists but it seems to be faulty). It can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.
SurfSafe gives you the power to find the source of misinformation and make informed decisions about what you are really reading. At the heart of every fake news story is an image that is likely doctored or taken out of context. SurfSafe uses the news sites you trust, along with fact checking pages and user reports as benchmarks for what images are considered “safe”. It’s simple – just hover over an image, and SurfSafe will classify the image as “safe”, “warning”, or “unsafe”. SurfSafe will also show you every instance of where the image in question has been seen before. You will be able to see if the context of image in the article has anything to do with the original instance. Not only can you protect yourself from fake news with SurfSafe, but you can also fight back. SurfSafe allows you to report suspicious images in order to help others surf safely.
TinEye is the go-to reverse image search tool. According to their website, by using TinEye "you can search by image or perform what we call a reverse image search. You can do that by uploading an image or searching by URL. You can also simply drag and drop your images to start your search."
The Chrome Web Store says TinEye "is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology, instead of using keywords, metadata or watermarks. When you submit an image to be searched, TinEye creates a unique and compact digital signature or 'fingerprint' for it, then compares this fingerprint to every other image in our index to retrieve matches. TinEye does not typically find similar images; it finds exact matches including those that have been cropped, edited or resized."
The Firefox Browser Add-Ons page says: "Click on any image on the web to search for it on TinEye. Recommended by Firefox! Discover where an image came from, see how it is being used, check if modified versions exist or locate high resolution versions. Made with love by the TinEye team."