Fighting Fake News Isn’t Just Up to Facebook and Google

You, too, can join the battle against misleading and other "fake" news online. But your options are somewhat limited unless you're already an academic or data scientist who's been studying the subject since way before Donald Trump started running for president.

Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, a research scientist at Indiana University, fits that bill. He helped create a tool tracking how unsubstantiated claims spread online, a phenomenon that first caught his eye during the Ebola crisis in 2014.

"We started seeing a lot of content that was spreading, completely fabricated claims about importations of Ebola, (such as) entire towns in Texas being under quarantine," he says. "What caught our attention was that these claims were created using names of publications that sounded like newspapers. And they were getting a lot of traction on social media."

"Fake news," which has gotten a lot of attention for its potential role in swaying the 2016 presidential election, has fascinated researchers for some time. Their studies have yielded tools that help track how "alternative facts" spread, and others that let you identify fake stories or block them altogether.

Deciphering Twitter Rumors

Some of these are still baby steps in dealing with the phenomenon, but they're part of a larger effort that now involves Facebook , Google and big media companies actively trying to tamp down the spread of fake stories. And the researchers were there first.

Tanushree Mitra, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, began a project three years ago to see how misinformation and fake news spread through Twitter. At the time, she says, "companies like Facebook and Twitter were not paying much attention."

What attracted her to the project was the prevalence of fake news that spread online following natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012. When she saw that people were sharing a lot of...

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