How a browser extension can help combat misinformation online?

MIT researchers have built, Trustnet, a browser extension to combat misinformation online.  

Updated - May 16, 2024 04:17 pm IST

Published - May 16, 2024 04:12 pm IST

MIT researchers have built a new browser extension to combat misinformation on the Internet.

MIT researchers have built a new browser extension to combat misinformation on the Internet. | Photo Credit: AP

MIT researchers have built a new browser extension to combat misinformation on the Internet. The browser extention, called Trustnet, lets individuals assess the accuracy of any content on any website. The extension also allows users to view content assessments from people they trust, building an online community that can effectively combat the spread of misinformation.

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, MIT said in a blog post.

The browser extension adds a button which opens a side panel on the browser. Here users can label the content as accurate, inaccurate, or question its accuracy. Users can also provide details or explain their rationale in an accompanying text box.

While similar models to combat misinformation are available in social media platforms like X, where users can leave notes. They do not work on the majority rules. Community notes on X requires agreement between contributors who are users that sign up to write and rate notes. However, the lack of cross-platform availability and the number of contributors who sign up limits the scope of notes on social media platforms.

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Trustnet tries to fix this with its platform agnostic approach.

The browser extention is also designed to check all links that show up on a page the user is reading, and if a trusted source has assessed content on any linked pages, the extension places indicators next to those links and fades the text of links to content deemed inaccurate.

Researchers at MIT, however, caution that letting users choose whom to trust could cause them to become trapped in their own bubbles and only see content that agrees with their lives.

During the trial of the extension, researchers further found that users valued assessments from people who were not professional fact-checkers, such as doctors who assessed medical content or immigrants assessing content related to foreign relation. This they say could be mitigated by identifying trust relationships in a more structured way, possibly by suggesting to users the trusted assesors.

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