Of all the cell phone users in the U.S., about half have a smartphone, which means that a large portion of the country is surfing the Internet both at home and on the go. Studies show that as many as 93% of all these online experiences begin with a search engine, with over 100 billion global searches conducted every month.
Many people these days use the Internet as their primary news source, but recently there has been an unfortunate trend involving the spread of false information online.
Fake news has been around for as long as people have been sharing information. More recently, however, “trolls” have continued to weave a vast web of lies, causing fake news to plague the Internet like never before.
One might think, “What’s the big deal? How harmful can some dumb fake stories really be?” The answer is: very harmful. In fact, these hoaxes have had some serious, real-life consequences. One fake news creator, Paul Horner, actually claimed some responsibility for Donald Trump’s presidential win, saying that his lies circulated among the candidate’s supporters, convincing them of more and more reasons to vote for Trump.
“Nobody fact-checks anything anymore,” Horner said. “I mean, that’s how Trump got elected.”
Fake news was also the catalyst behind the DC shooting at a pizza shop in early December. In response to a false theory claiming that Hillary Clinton helped run a child sex ring out of the restaurant, a gunman opened fire in an attempt to “rescue the children.”
In order to combat the fake news epidemic, Indiana University’s Network Science Institute and Center for Complex Networks and System Research released a beta version of Hoaxy, a search engine designed to track false news reports. The site indexes stories from 132 websites that are known to produce fake news, including MSNBC.website and WashingtonPost.com.co.
With Hoaxy, not only can you view the fake news, you can track its influence and see how the links have spread across social media.
Researchers at Indiana University created Hoaxy to learn more about how to address this growing issue.
“Until we understand the phenomenon, we can’t really develop countermeasures,” said the center’s director, Filippo Menczer.
Ultimately, Hoaxy is an efficient way for Internet users to confirm the validity of a news story. For example, if a user comes across a story that seems fishy, they can search for the subject on the website to see if it returns anything related.