Two Yale students' winning idea to beat fake news
If only it was this easy to spot. Source: Flickr

Called “Open Mind”, here’s how it works:

A Google Chrome extension is used to tell the reader whether the article is likely to be fake or not. The extension then suggests alternatives from more established news sites catering to both sides of the political spectrum.

It also functions to spot biases in the stories someone is reading and rate how positive or negative the stories are when it is about certain topics like “Donald Trump,” “FBI” or “NY Times” via simple charts.

This brainchild of two PhD candidates in Cognitive Psychology at Yale, Stefan Uddenberg and Michael Lopez-Brau, was the winning idea at YHack, the Ivy League’s student-run hackathon held Dec 1-3.

Tasked to find a way to combat fake news, Lopez-Brau and Uddenberg teamed up with Alex Cui from the California Institute of Technology and Jeff An from the University of Waterloo, to try and win the prize: A trip to the capital Washington, DC, to brief Congressional leaders on their findings.

“Going to Congress – it’s hard to beat that,” Lopez-Brau said, as quoted by Yale News. “I have no idea what the implications are, if there will be any impact on future policies, but it’s a huge opportunity.”

The team used lists from eight different sources, such as Harvard, Open Sources and B.S. Detector to help them identify the 1,400 “fake news” sites – online content that has no basis in fact, but presented as factually correct in social media or certain news sites like Infowars, Addicting Info and Health Impact News.

The extension will steer clear of “far-left” or “far-right” sites, according to Lopez-Brau.

“If you don’t have the energy to seek out alternative information, this will find those for you. Ultimately, these are perspectives you’d be better off having read,” Uddenberg said.

Future plans for Open Mind includes building a “political thermometer” to tell you how conservative or liberal an article is, as well as a “share verificiation” feature on Facebook which will prompt users to confirm whether they want to share an article they have yet to read.

While the harm arising from fake news are well-known, an effective method to identify or counter it has yet to be found. A Yale study this year found tagging fake news on Facebook as “disputed by third party fact-checkers” only results in a small impact on whether readers perceive their headlines as true, as reported by PoliticoTrump supporters and those aged under 26 were even likelier to believe the fake news as true if they have flagged as bogus.

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