Group of millennials develops algorithm to identify fake data on Facebook

Anant Goel, Nabanita De, Qinglin Chen and Mark Craft are the brains behind a Google Chrome extension that detects fake news on Facebook. Credit: Nabanita De Source: Business Insider

Anant Goel, Nabanita De, Qinglin Chen and Mark Craft are the brains behind a Google Chrome extension that detects fake news on Facebook.
Credit: Nabanita De
Source: Business Insider

A group of university students have developed a Google Chrome browser extension aiming to detect fake news on Facebook.

The mega popular social network has faced increasing criticism over its role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many prominent news outlets reported after the election.

Both Business Insider and The Washington Post have made clear that Facebook allowed propaganda and lies posed as news stories to spread unchecked. 

In response, Mark Zuckerberg said that “fake news is such a small percentage of the stuff shared on Facebook that it couldn’t have had an impact.”

According to a Nov. 15 report by BuzzFeed, Facebook employees were so disappointed about the situation that a group of them took it upon themselves to figure out how to fix the issue. However, the solution came from a group of four highly skilled college students. 

When Nabanita De, a second-year master’s student at the University of Massachusetts, attended a hackathon at Princeton University, with the goal to develop a technology project in 36 hours, she suggested that she and her three teammates try to build an algorithm that authenticates the validity of news posted to Facebook. Along with Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University, and Mark Craft and Qinglin Chen, sophomores at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, De built a Chrome browser extension. 

The students named their project “FiB: Stop living a lie.” 

De explained that by using artificial intelligence, FiB classifies every post, from pictures to news links, as verified or unverified by taking into account the source’s credibility and cross-checking the content with other news stories.

When a post appears to be false, the browser plug-in first provides a summary of more reliable information on the topic online, then adds a little tag in the corner indicating whether the story is verified or not.

Though the young students created the FiB extension in only a day and half, they realized it was an open-source project and started asking anyone with development ability to help them to improve it. The plugin has been made available for download to the public.

Even though a Chrome plugin labeling fake news is not the definitive or official solution for Facebook, these four students’ talent proved that algorithms can be built and employed to solve the issue of fake news.