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B.S. Detector highlights “fake” news links and sites

05 December 2016, Mike Williams

B.S. DetectorA busy Facebook feed could be crammed with all kinds of articles and news headlines, but are they genuine, or propaganda, or hoaxes, or something else entirely?

B.S. Detector is a free extension for Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari and Edge which claims it can help.

The technology on offer is, well, basic.  B.S. Detector scans the links on your Facebook timeline (and other pages, once a performance issue is fixed) for references to sites on a blacklist, and warns you if there’s a hit.

Visit a blacklisted site and you’ll see a similar alert at the top of the page, but that’s all. Nothing is blocked, and you can read and browse the site as usual.

Sites appear on B.S. Detector’s blacklist for many reasons. Some seem reasonable, such as letting you know that a link comes from a satire or prank site. But categories like “Conspiracy Theory” and “Rumor Mill” are more problematic because the target sites cover such a wide spectrum of stories, from the absurd to the (possibly) very important. Do they all deserve the same rating?

B.S. Detector

B.S. Detector displays a warning about “unreliable” stories, but there’s no content blocking– you can read them as usual

You can’t address these issues by reconfiguring the extension, either. There’s no way to edit the list or choose the categories of interest to you: it’s all, or nothing.

B.S. Detector could work for some people, in a few situations. If you’re worried about what your kids might be seeing online, then giving them alerts that a story comes from a hate site (or whatever) isn’t necessarily a bad idea. They’re not being prevented from reading it, after all – it’s just a warning – so arguably this is better than blocking content types entirely.

But if you do try the extension, keep in mind that it’s only offering a very basic reliability hint. Finding a story on a “rumor” site doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false, any more than reading something on a regular news site guarantees that it’s true, and ultimately you’ll need to apply some critical thinking of your own to help figure out which is which.

B.S. Detector is a free browser extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Edge.

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