Five browser plugins to help you weed the fake news from your Facebook feed

Since the 2016 election, a number of browser plugins have been developed by various groups to help you avoid bad or misleading news. Although fake news became a prominent issue following the election of Donald Trump, tools to separate good from bad news sources is long overdue.

None of these will actually fact check stories for you but they will flag unreliable sources.

1) B.S. Detector is a plugin that works with Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari and Edge. Normally you won't know it's there at all until you come across information from a dubious source then it popus up a warning like this

BS Detector gets its list of good and bad sources from Open Sources, a "a curated resource for assessing online information sources, available for public use. Websites in this resource range from credible news sources to misleading and outright fake websites." It is the only one of the five extensions that also seems to work with Twitter.

2) Fake News Alert is a Chrome extension that basically does what B.S. Detector does. It was created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman however you're probably better off using the latter. Feldman's extension was created quickly using a list created by Merrimack College communications professor Melissa Zimdars. Zidmars went on to create the Open Sources project mentioned above. So, while B.S. Detector uses an evolving and frequently updated database of sources, Fake News alert does not appear to have been updated since shortly after the 2016 election.

3) This Is Fake is an extension developed by Slate. It is designed as a community driven project. The extension is designed to allow readers, with input from Slate editors can flag and help to debunk fake news stories.

The red box shown is meant to link to credible sources debunking the story in question.

Feel free to try this one but it didn't work for me. I deliberately searched topics which are usually loaded with fake news and questionable sources and didn't see a single instance of the red box that is supposed to show up. I do have a small red balloon that allows me to report bad news, but the rest either isn't working or fake stories aren't being reported. It is also worth noting that Slate is a pretty left-leaning news site and their idea of fake news and debunking may reflect that. (This is only a suspicion, as I said I wasn't able to test it.)

4) FiB was originally created by 4 students in just 36 hours during a hackathon at Princeton University. The algorithm behind it uses keyword extraction, image recognition and source verification to examine every Facebook post, from news stories to simple status updates. It uses a blue verified box to indicate that a post appears to be fine. It also alerts you if you’ve posted something that is unverified, in case you want to double check the information or take it down.

5) Media Bias/Fact Check is a bit different from the others. It doesn't check the factuality of a specific story. Instead it puts a bar below the story that tells you the general bias and reliability of the publication a story is from. This includes left, left center, least biased, right center and right. It also includes "pro-science", "conspiracy-theory/pseudoscience", "satire" and "questionable sources". So it may not tell you how accurate a story is but it will tell you about the general, overall reliability of the publication.

It is sad that all of these are focused on Facebook and only one works with Twitter or the web generally. However, Facebook seems like a fine place to start in cutting down on the BS. Personally I have all 5 of these turned on which, I hope, will give me the best possible chance of spotting fakery and knowing why it's fake and where it's coming from. And, as always, there are the search engines which this site is built around to dig deeper and find the real story. If you know of any other useful tools, let me know at beach.justin [at]
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