Use this Chrome extension to know if you're reading fake or biased news

It's become increasingly difficult to tell, but this Chrome extension aims to fix that.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
3 min read
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Have you ever clicked a link on Facebook, been taken to a site you've never heard of and wondered whether what you were reading was real, fake news or satire? Of course, you have. It's 2018 and the lines between all three are blurred more by the day. Even to a trained eye, some sites require a double-take or a close look at the finer details to tell if you're really on the website you expected to be on.

Fortunately, Eyeo, the company behind AdBlock Plus, aims to combat this internet gray area and clear things up for everyone with its new browser extension TrustedNews. Here's how it works.

Watch this: Facebook cracks down on fake news

How to install TrustedNews

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Sadly, for now, TrustedNews is only available for Chrome , so if you use Firefox, Safari or another browser, you'll have to wait for the company to expand.

If you use Chrome, open a new tab and head over to trusted-news.com and click Get TrustedNews for Chrome. This will take you to the Chrome Web Store. There you will need to click Add to Chrome. And that's it. The extension will immediately get to work, no setup required.

When you visit a news site, the extension icon in the Chrome Menu in the upper right of the browser will tell you if the source is trustworthy or not.

How TrustedNews works

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The TrustedNews extension is powered by the MetaCert Protocol and uses sources like Snopes and PolitiFact to "measure the truthfulness of news content."

When you visit a website, that site is given a rating. If it's a trustworthy site, the icon in the Chrome Menu will show a green checkmark. If you click on that icon, it will give you a short summary of why it's considered a trustworthy site. Here are a few of the other possible ratings or states that TrustedNews can provide:

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  • Unknown: Insufficient data prevents TrustedNews from evaluating the website.
  • Untrustworthy: A site knowingly publishes false or misleading information.
  • Satire: A website that published satirical content and is not intended to be used for factual news.
  • Biased: A site that published politically biased information and "promotes unproven or skewed views."
  • Malicious: A website that attacks your computer with malware, phishing, viruses, spyware or other threats to your privacy or computer.
  • Clickbait: A website that knowingly uses misleading titles to draw in readers to inflate traffic and, subsequently, revenue.
  • User-Generated Content: A page or site that contains content generated by third-party contributors. This can be a social media site like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, or it could also be something like a Tumblr blog.

In our time testing TrustedNews, it seems to be working pretty well, flagging sites with an obvious slant with the Biased tag and picking up on The Onion and Clickhole as Satire. All the typical social sites were flagged as User-Generated Content, and most of the factual sites we visited were given the green check mark.

However, a lot of sites still don't have enough data for TrustedNews to make a fair assessment. That should change in the future, though, as more people use the extension.

When you click on the extension icon to reveal more information about the rating, there is a section that says, "Give feedback on this rating (coming soon)." So for websites that are still flying below the radar of TrustedNews's partners, the community will be able to determine the reliability of a website.

Eyeo told TechCrunch that the company has been working with MetaCert Protocol to build in a game mechanic for rewarding people who submit feedback about the reliability of a website. It also has a plan to decentralize the database of user-submitted feedback by placing it on the Ethereum blockchain and implementing a mechanism to deter bad actors who aim to spoil the data with false feedback.

TrustedNews requires no effort to use, so there's no reason not to use it. Just install the extension and glance up to the right corner of your browser window when visiting an unfamiliar website to get a feel for how trustworthy a site is. If it improves and gains a more widespread database over time, then it's all the better for finally taking the wind out of the fake news sails once and for all.