Special Report: Fake News and a Real Solution
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU) —
Arguably a dangerous trend, fake news is spreading across social media like wild fire.
"It could be very dangerous,” Nicole Cooke, Assistant Professor at U of I’s School of Information Sciences, said.
A prime example of the potential dangers of fake news happened at the end of last year, when a man reacted to a fabricated child-sex ring, with open gun fire at the location in the article -- a Washington Pizza place.
"Pizza-gate,” Cooke said. “That actually was dangerous. If they are using the conspiracy theory to take action."
Assistant Professor Rachel Magee, specialist in social media, said more and more fake content is hitting the web and writers of fake news are making more and more money.
"You know our president is talking about,” Magee said. “People are sharing fake content. People are trying to engage and have a critical perspective, but it can be tough when there's a lot of that coming across your feed. We need to develop the skills to try to assess it."
When assessing fake news, first look at the source, is it a verified news outlet?
Other red flags include URL’s with ‘.co’. Also look out for extreme or outrageous language and always be aware of your own bias, real articles tend to be unbiased.
Both Cooke and Magee say you can always double check articles with Google and other sources.
They worry that producers of fake news are getting better at building that content every day, So Fox Champaign showed local news consumers if they can decipher between real and fake news.
With the same six articles, a handful of residents all guessed at least one wrong.
"It's hard to get a clear understanding of what's real and what's not,” one resident Yusef Byrd said. “It mainly affects the youth, because you grow up, believing in a lie."
But now recently launched software is changing the realm of fake news.
Mark Craft, a University of Illinois sophomore, along with three other students, (Qinglin Chen, another U of I sophomore, Nabanita De, a second-year master's student in computer science student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University) built a chrome extension called "Fib" during a 36-hour hackathon last fall.
The Hackathon gave students the medium to spend hours on end trying to build the most useful soft or hardware.
Their creation, "Fib" can do the double checking for you, cross referencing sources to tell social media users whether or not a post is real, with a marker over posts that say “verified” or “not verified.”
Unexpectedly, the extension received over 50,000 users and over 5 million article verification requests.
"Facebook is becoming some people's source of news,” Craft said. “The Hackathon, was about the time of the elections, so we decided to tackle the Fake News topic. Just amazed that our little extension that we made over this weekend, blew up to be so big."
The interest was "so big", the extension crashed and was relaunched last week as "Project Fib".
But craft said it just shows how big of a concern fake news is and should be to the world.
"Information is what makes a democracy,” Assistant Professor Cooke said. “You know everyone has enough information to have informed choice, and I think Fake News takes some of that away. I think it might slow down, it might die down, but there's always going to be Fake News and false information."
After recent fixes, the fib chrome extension is up and running again under the name "Project fib."
Learn more here: https://devpost.com/software/fib.
Or get the extension here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/project-fib/njfkbbdphllgkbdomopoiibhdkkohnbf.