Of the many words and phrases President Donald Trump introduced into our lexicon, ‘fake news’ is probably my favorite.
‘Grab them by the pussy’ is a close second, and I have a soft spot for his tweets that end with SAD! But I digress…
It’s a durable phrase, and it’s oft used for a reason. The President tapped into a well of mistrust for news media, ending with his infamous 2016 election victory.
We all know what fake news means, but what can we do to avoid dodgy sources? It turns out; there’s a number of browser extensions that work to do just that.
We’ve tested three of the most credible fake news extensions, so you don’t have to. Here’s our take on each one, with more information about how they work.
The Benefits of Using a Browser Extension for Fake News
Let’s face it. It’s cringeworthy when you see people posting satire without realizing it on social media. It’s worse if you do it yourself, and you’ll need speechcraft of 100 to get away with it successfully.
Aside from satirical content, extensions can block all manner of fake news. Ranging from paid advertisements to websites reported for hate speech, along with everything in between.
*They don’t block access to traditional news sources like CNN or the BBC, but they are capable of weeding out questionable content and websites.
(We’ve provided a full list of blocked content below.)
Extensions work by increasing the functionality of your chosen browser. In this case, the fake news extension will provide a warning message before you open any suspicious websites.
It’s not always 100% accurate, but it’s good to know more about where you’re getting your information from. (I used to read ATS a lot as a kid, and it’s proudly dedicated to conspiracies.) Regardless, the small warning message located at the top of the page will warn first-time clickers about what to expect.
Fringe groups often use unrelated content to gain traffic and likes for their main page. It’s easier than you might expect to like or share a post affiliated to an extremist group.
It’s why you will sometimes see friends and family members sharing content from questionable sources, often with no knowledge of their background or political affiliations.
If you get caught out, you’ll soon start receiving updates from their page on websites like Facebook. It’s a slippery hole, and it can lead to a warped perspective.
The worst thing is, it affects both sides of the political spectrum. Using an extension is easier than going through every site you visit manually, and they’re easy enough to install.
Best of all, they’re completely free to download and use. So if you’re always clicking on new frontiers on the internet, take a look at the best fake news blockers below.
1. B.S Detector
The aptly named B.S Detector is one of the best known fake news extensions available. It works by referencing pages with OpenSources, and it’ll give you a warning message before you open a suspicious page.
The extension will classify sites that fit the following criteria:
Fake News: Sources that fabricate stories out of whole cloth with the intent of pranking the public.
Satire: Sources that provide humorous commentary on current events in the form of fake news.
Extreme Bias: Sources that traffic in political propaganda and gross distortions of fact.
Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.
Rumor Mill: Sources that traffic in rumors, innuendo, and unverified claims.
State News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.
Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.
Hate Group: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
Clickbait: Sources that are aimed at generating online advertising revenue and rely on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching pictures.
Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.
There’s a varied mix of content that can be flagged. However, since B.S. Detector doesn’t source the data they use themselves, they make it clear that they assume no liability regarding the accuracy of their results.
(That’s probably not the best message to put out there considering the subject matter, but at least they’re honest.)
Even so, they’re aiming to reduce the number of people believing fake news on the internet. It also helps that OpenSource is carefully curated for accuracy.
2. Fake News Blocker
If you want a lightweight extension, the aptly named Fake News Blocker has you covered.
Unlike B.S Detector, the Fake News Blocker gathers information via crowdsourcing. It works by referencing websites against an internal list of suspicious sources.
It means their data is constantly evolving, and it’ll be highly useful if contributors continue to work hard to keep their lists updated.
With FNB you simply import one of their fake news lists and off you go. FNB allows for a customizable experience, but the lists are not particularly in-depth.
For example, both Infowars and ATS had no warning, despite being two of the largest conspiracy websites on the net.
The speed of use is a bonus. The developers boast that it adds just 86ms to the average load time for a web page. Personally, I noticed negligible differences in load times, but it’s an important metric to be aware of if you have a slower internet connection.
It might not have the clout of B.S Detector, but it’s still a good alternative. Personally, I’d go for B.S Detector if I had to choose between the two.
3. Fake News Alert
Fake News Alert is a smaller extension that has over 15,000 downloads on the App Store. It was created by Brian Feldman, who works as the assistant editor of the Washington Post.
However, as he knocked the app together in an afternoon, it lacks some features and functionality that would make it the ideal extension. For example, it won’t be able to flag news found in social media posts.
Facebook was a big player in fake news, and social media is generally a breeding ground for ignorance.
(With that in mind, it’s worth paying particular attention when clicking random links, and make sure to take things you see in your newsfeed with a pinch of salt.)
Feldman released his work to the online community, in the hope that users could continue his work. Ideally, they will adapt it for additional features, but it still operates in a bare-bones capacity.
Considering the above, it’s probably still best to go for one of the other two options.
Things to Remember
No ‘fake news’ browser extension is perfect, but they do work to steer you clear from the worst of the internet.
They’re easy to install, and you can always delete the extension if you’re unhappy with the results. They should not be used as a replacement for critical thinking, but it may help you to get more balanced information.
It’s true that they may show a false positive from time to time, and they’re never going to be 100% accurate. Even so, the extensions are a valid effort to curb the rise of fake news, and they could be helpful if you’re constantly browsing.
Fake news fatigue happens to the best of us, whether we’re desperately trying to prove a ridiculous argument, or trying to find out whether a 1990’s rapper has died or not.
If you’re used to reading from a wide range of websites and sources, it cannot hurt to have additional info before you start posting to social media.
Above all, nobody wants to be used to further someone else’s political agenda.
Considering the general mistrust of the media by large sections of the public, it’s only natural that people are going to turn to alternative news sources.
The problem is, it’s often easy to find data to support nearly any argument when you’re looking online. So if a website is untrustworthy, you deserve to know before you start reading.
It’s getting harder to differentiate between fake news and facts, especially so if a website is telling you what you want to hear. So if you want to stand a better chance at beating your own bias, it’s worth giving a fake news browser extension a try.
At worst, you’ll find out you’ve been reading from questionable sources. It’s better than being another victim of fake news.