August 21, 2018 | ° F

Students talk technical challenges in fighting fake news online

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

Photo Illustration | Students from around the nation created a Google Chrome extension to filter fake news on social media platforms like Facebook.

The prevalence of fake news on social media made headlines following the 2016 election, with some companies, like Google and Facebook, beginning to clamp down on its spread.

In response, four students from Purdue University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed “FiB: Stop living a lie” at HackPrinceton, an annual student hack-a-thon held at Princeton University, according to Business Insider.

The extension enables users to check if an article, image or link is verified using JavaScript, said Sakib Jalal, the president of the Rutgers Alliance of Computer Scientists and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

“They built an artificial intelligence within 36 hours that verifies different posts on Facebook as you scroll through your newsfeed, and it verifies images through image recognition,” Jalal said. “It verifies posts through keyword extraction."

After keyword and image recognition mechanisms verify the authenticity of Twitter screenshots and Facebook posts, a checkbox allows users to quickly see if the article, image or text is accurate, Jalal said.

Sixty percent of adults find their news on social media, with a fifth of the country using it as their primary source of information. Many media outlets use this to their advantage, Jalal said. 

Individuals are also guilty of posting or relaying inaccurate information, Jalal said. 

“They say, ‘Oh I don’t have time to check my stuff, I’m just an ordinary citizen, I’m busy’ and they can get away with that because that’s reasonable, right?'" he said.

Fake news played a significant role in the most recent election cycle, according to the New York Times. Facebook denied that fake news played a role in the election results.

The Chrome extension is ingenious and could be of much help in solving the problem of fake news online, though there may be difficulties verifying some controversial news, said Paris Downing, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

“There were a lot of crazy stories out there as I scrolled through social media in the past few months, like Hillary (Clinton) and (Donald) Trump being a part of a prostitute ring,” Downing said.

Many students and millennials voted based on information they saw on social media or television, said School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore Madison Back. 

In order to make sure she is viewing accurate information, Back said she varies the sources from which she gets her information. With the Chrome extension unavailable yet to the public, readers must monitor their own news consumption.

“I kept up with all news sources because I don’t trust just one," she said.

Angelisa Cunniff is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Angelisa Cunniff

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