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New browser extension empowers users to fight online misinformation

Farnaz Jahanbakhsh et al, A Browser Extension for in-place Signaling and Assessment of Misinformation, arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2403.11485

MIT News: “Most people agree that the spread of online misinformation is a serious problem. But there is much less consensus on what to do about it. Many proposed solutions focus on how social media platforms can or should moderate content their users post, to prevent misinformation from spreading. “But this approach puts a critical social decision in the hands of for-profit companies. It limits the ability of users to decide who they trust. And having platforms in charge does nothing to combat misinformation users come across from other online sources,” says Farnaz Jahanbakhsh SM ’21, Ph.D. ’23, who is currently a postdoc at Stanford University. She and MIT Professor David Karger have proposed an alternate strategy. They built a web browser extension that empowers individuals to flag misinformation and identify others they trust to assess online content. Their decentralized approach, called the Trustnet browser extension, puts the power to decide what constitutes misinformation into the hands of individual users rather than a central authority. Importantly, the universal browser extension works for any content on any website, including posts on social media sites, articles on news aggregators, and videos on streaming platforms. Through a two-week study, the researchers found that untrained individuals could use the tool to effectively assess misinformation. Participants said having the ability to assess content, and see assessments from others they trust, helped them think critically about it…”

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