Hoaxy - The Search Engine That Charts the Spread of Fake News


As a journalist writing about social media, I've probably seen the words 'fake' and 'news' together more times than most in the past few months (apart from the people who are actually embroiled in the issue). Since Trump was elected, platforms have been put under more and more pressure to address the issue.

It's easy to understand why. People are using social media, and Facebook in particular, as a primary news source more and more, and the tailored approach to content which they've adopted means that the most share-worthy material rises to the top, whether it's real or not.

Facebook have yet to find a definitive way to tackle the issue, the past few months have mostly consisted of backtracking and finger pointing, but plenty of others are finding their own ways to approach it. In the case of Indiana University, they've found a way to create search engine dedicated solely to bogus news content.

'Hoaxy' operates using an index of 132 sites guilty of spreading fake stories. All you have to do is type in search terms, and it will show you all the relevant stories. Select one or several, smash the 'Visualise' button, and you'll be presented with a graph, a timeline and a network map, all of which act as visual representations of the way the story or stories spread across the internet like shouty, attention-seeking locusts.

Using this system, you can cross compare which stories got the most attention on different sites, how quickly they picked up momentum and much more. Being able to compare and contrast between different stories on the same topic adds an extra layer of depth to this.

For research purposes, this could be invaluable, and it's interesting to look up specific key words and unearth some of the more ridiculous stories which have gone out, particularly relating to the US presidential election. It's all fairly upsetting, and it makes you realise what a vast issue fake news really is, but you have to hope that being able to understand how they get a foothold will help to devise an antidote.

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