You’ve probably haven’t heard the names of Anant Goel, Nabanita De, Qinglin Chen, and Mark Craft. These names probably would have made Hillary Clinton cringe, but seriously, these four are normal college students who figured out a social media problem about fake news and made an open source app for it in just 36 hours. By now everyone knows from the news that Facebook has a fake-news problem and has been faced with criticism for not being able to weed out what is genuine news confirmed from unconfirmed or made-up fake news items. Part of this criticism is that Hillary Clinton blames the deluge of fake propaganda disguised as news stories that cost her the elections. The spreading of fake news on Facebook was so bad that it even affected President Barack Obama. Of course, everyone knows that blaming Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, for Clinton’s losing the campaign is like playing a rock concert to a tone-deaf person.
Using pure logic, fake news constitutes only a very small percentage of everything shared on Facebook, so this could never have any significant impact on any election. But in spite of this, Facebook has officially promised to do better, though they insist that ferreting out the real from the fake is a large technical problem to hurdle. Tell that to these four college students (three sophomores and a freshmen, mind you) who figured out the algorithm problem to determine fake from real news in just 36 news. Now people are thinking that perhaps Facebook’s promise was also fake news as well. During a hackathon (a legal and gaming hackathon) at Princeton University, these four college freshmen created the algorithm form of a Chrome browser extension in just two days. They named their project, “Fib: Stop Living a Lie.”
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Nabanita De, a second-year sophomore student in computer science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University; Mark Craft, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Qinglin Chen, a sophomore also at the University of Illinois, never even knew each other. They only met at the Hackathon, but when the subject of the fake news on Facebook came up, the four of them decided to create something that could decipher the fake news. They got together for the next two days and came out with great success. Their News Feed Authenticity Checker works by classifying every post – be it pictures – Twitter snapshots, adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, and other news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence. For the links, the Fib or News Feed Authenticity Checker then takes into account the website’s reputation, querying it against malware and phishing websites database as well as searching for it on Google and Bing search engines for further verification. This verification is also done for all pictures and their sources. The browser plug-in then adds a small tag on the right-side corner that says whether the story is verified or not. Ironically, Facebook was one of the sponsors of the said hackathon.