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Is That True? 4 Browser Extensions to Help You Spot Fake News

(Credit: Getty Images/Heath Korvola)

Not sure which sources to trust when you’re online? These browser extensions can help you figure out how to detect misleading articles and untrustworthy websites.

By Lance Whitney

Fake news has become a pervasive problem on the internet. You find a news site or story online but you don’t know if you can trust it. Is it true? Is it accurate? Is it reliable? Not even your Facebook friends know how to tell the difference. But you can find out if a news site or a specific article is considered reliable and truthful, courtesy of the right browser plug-in.

Extensions such as NewsGuard, TrustServista, Media Bias/Fact Check, and The Factual integrate into your browser and display grades, rankings, and reports to tell you more about the news sources you view. You can then better determine if the stories you read should be trusted.

NewsGuard

NewsGuard relies on a team of journalists who analyze more than 5,800 news websites in the US, each of which is evaluated and ranked on nine different criteria:

  • Does the site repeatedly publish false content?
  • Does it gather and present information responsibly?
  • Does it regularly correct or clarify errors?
  • Does it handle the difference between news and opinion responsibly?
  • Does it avoid deceptive headlines?
  • Does it disclose ownership and financing about itself?
  • Does it clearly label advertising?
  • Does it reveal who’s in charge, including possible conflicts of interest?
  • Does it provide information about content creators?

Each criteria is given a certain weigh, or number of points, to determine the site’s overall rating. A site earns a green rating if it meets basic standards of accuracy and accountability. A red rating means it fails to meet those minimum standards.

After NewsGuard is activated, an icon for the plug-in appears on your browser’s toolbar. Open to a website that NewsGuard’s team has analyzed, and the icon turns green or red, depending on the site’s ranking. Click the icon to find out why the site earned its stripes. Clicking the link to view the full nutrition label serves up greater details that reveal the ownership, content, history, background, and credibility (or lack thereof) of the site. The label also lists the authors behind the report and the sources they used.

NewsGuard even works offsite. Conduct a web search using Google or Bing, and the extension’s icon will appear next to any news source that appear in the results. Hover over the icon to view NewsGuard’s analysis of the site. The service offers a free two-week trial, after which it costs $4.95 per month for Chrome and Firefox( users. Those who use Microsoft Edge can use the feature for free.

TrustServista

Using artificial intelligence and other analytics, TrustServista tries to gauge the trustworthiness of a news article. Designed for Google Chrome (and Edge), this extension analyzes an article and then delivers different types of feedback and metrics, including the context setting (the amount of factual information), the sentiment (negative, neutral, or positive), the veracity of the source (known publisher or named author) and the likelihood of the article being clickbait.

After installing the TrustServista extension, click its toolbar icon to analyze the news story open in your browser. The extension will display the name of the article’s author, article type, context, sentiment, its clickbait potential, and its content quality score. (You may see a message telling you that the extension is currently processing the site and to try again in 30 seconds.)

Naturally, the lower the score, the less trustworthy the article is considered. Scroll down further to see more details and a list of keywords used in the article. TrustServista is free but limits you to 300 articles analyzed per month. For $2.99 a month, the limit is upped to 3,000 per month.

Official Media Bias/Fact Check Extension

The Media Bias/Fact Check Resource, an independent website with a stated goal of promoting awareness of media bias and misinformation, offers its own browser extension that focuses on political bias. Instead of grading news sources based on specific criteria, the tool evaluates a site based on factual reporting, like how accurate and reliable the information is and how proper the sources for that information are.

Toward that end, the site—and its extension—use human analysts and evaluators to examine and rate the bias of different news sources. The extension, available for Chrome , Edge, and Firefox, assigns rankings to news sites based on the analysis of bias. A site can receive any of the following grades:

  • L — Left Bias
  • LC — Left-Center Bias
  • C — Center (Least Biased)
  • RC — Right-Center Bias
  • R — Right Bias
  • PS — Pro-Science
  • CP — Conspiracy-Pseudoscience
  • S — Satire
  • Q — Questionable Sources

After you install the MBFC extension, browse to a particular website. The toolbar icon changes its color and initial to indicate the bias ranking for that content. Click the icon, and a description pops up to explain the specific level of bias assigned to that site. Click the detailed report link for the news site and you’ll see examples that explain why the site was evaluated with a certain bias. The report also includes a history and background of the site.

The Factual

The Factual offers a newsletter, website, mobile app, and Chrome extension aimed at helping people get factual news. Through an algorithm backed by cross-checking from human editors, the Factual evaluates more than 10,000 articles each day. The Chrome extension rates articles based on quality, tone, and other factors so you can decide whether a story is worth your time, well-researched, isn’t too opinionated, and is written by a knowledgeable reporter.

After installing the extension in Chrome or Microsoft Edge, browse to a news article. Click the Factual’s toolbar icon to see its feedback on the story. A factual grade and a political bias are assigned based on the author’s expertise, quality, tone, and quality of the sources. Hover over an info icon for each metric to see its definition. Clicking a link to show details reveals even more information about the specific story and rankings.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.