The rise of social networks and digital newspapers appears to have created (or at least amplified) a side effect: fake, misleading news spread like viral infections through social media.

People are either lazy, too busy, or both. Most of the time readers see a headline, read the article, and don’t bother to check the validity of the source of the article. After all who has time to fact check every piece of news. While most news companies have achieved a reputation for not spreading false information, newer publications may get away with false headlines just to attract viewers.

Sometimes we might access our favorite news portal, read interesting or relevant articles, just to find out a couple of days later that the entire text was inaccurate because the publication cited a second-hand, unreliable source.

Disinformation in the digital world is being cataloged as a future global risk by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It’s not a surprise that investigators, researchers, and programmers decided to team up and tackle the problem. Meet Hoaxy, an online search engine designed to detect fake news.

“Hoax” is the term used to describe a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as the truth. Hoaxy can be used to input some simple words and the engine will retrieve a list of all fake articles containing the entered words. The algorithm is in beta version and is able to query a list of 132 websites known to publish unreliable articles.

The tool is also able to graph a map of the user’s interaction with the ‘fake’ article on social media. The website offers an excellent way to see how a piece of information can spread through blogs, websites, and social media. Hoaxy is a project from IndianaUniversity’s Center for Complex Networks and System Research.

Hoaxy metrics (captured in real time) shows that fake news travel fast, a misguided headline is able to reach popularity in an instant, but the follow-up articles (the one’s clarifying the truth) take 10 to 20 hours to be shared on social media and reach the audience. Will Hoaxy improve this results? Only time will tell.

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