By Dipo Olowookere
As pressure mounts on firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to tackle fake news, some are taking things into their own hands.
Technologist Daniel Sieradski has developed a plug-in – known as BS Detector – that flags up “questionable” websites on Facebook and Twitter.
The plug-in – has appeared in dozens of news feeds, leading some to think it was an official Facebook feature.
It appears Facebook is currently blocking links to the site.
BS Detector is a plug-in that uses a list of fake news sources as its reference point. It can be added to Chrome and Mozilla browsers and when it spots a potentially false story, flags it with a red banner reading: “This website is considered a questionable source.”
It was created, Mr Sieradski said, “in about an hour” as a “rejoinder to Mark Zuckerberg’s dubious claims that Facebook is unable to substantively address the proliferation of fake news on its platform”.
It has had over 25,000 installs since launch. “I and other open source contributors have spent many more hours improving its functionality,” Mr Sieradski told the BBC.
Since that article was published, Facebook appears to have blocked anyone from posting a link to the BS Detector website.
“Facebook now provides a security warning and disallows you to do so,” Mr Sieradski told the BBC.
Facebook said that it was “looking into the matter”.
The plug-in is currently a proof-of-concept tool rather than a solution to the issue and some users have reported it has caused their browser to crash.
Facebook faces growing criticism for what some see as a failure to tackle fake news.
In a blogpost in mid-November, founder Mark Zuckerberg said: “Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information.
“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”
‘Danger to democracy’
He said that the firm was doing more to allow people to report stories as fake as well as directing people to fact-checking organisations, adding: “We are exploring labelling stories that have been flagged as false by third parties or our community, and showing warnings when people read or share them.”
He also announced plans to stop fake news organisations from making money by cutting off their advertising funding.
There has also been much scrutiny on the role played by fake news in influencing the outcome of the US presidential election.
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