Cut through Bull Online: Add B.S. Detector to Your Browser

screenshot of BS detector notification in FacebookAmericans increasingly get news from social media sites. Facebook and Twitter function as news sources for over half of their users (Pew research study, 2015). For many of us — myself included — this shift is unintentional (Pew research study, 2016).

During our “fake news” workshop, many students shared concerns about the difficulties of identifying misinformation, clickbait, propaganda, and disinformation online. Navigating the many different — and sometimes unfamiliar — news and media outlets whose stories circulate without much context on Facebook, and Twitter is a major challenge.

One great tool to help you quickly identify stories from suspect outlets is B.S. Detector, a browser extension that works with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. B.S. Detector will display a banner when you are viewing content from a site known to spread false, conspiratorial, or misleading news

Specifically, it flags sites that have been identified as purveyors of satire, fake news, state-controlled news, junk science, clickbait, hate news, conspiracy theories, and other extremely biased stories that may rely on decontextualized information or propaganda.

screenshot of BS detector notification in Twitter

B.S. Detector uses the list originally developed by Dr. Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor at Merrimack College, for one of her classes. The list is now curated by Dr. Zimdars and others in the Open Sources project.

As a librarian and critical consumer of information, I am not 100% in agreement with B.S. Detector’s classifications, but it’s the best tool of its type I’ve found so far. In the few weeks I’ve had it installed on my personal computer, it’s already been eye-opening. I highly recommend it.

Today’s post was written by Desirae Zingarelli-Sweet, Reference & Instruction Librarian for Theology.