Yale University Hackathon Takes Aim At Fake News

Dec 27, 2017
Originally published on December 27, 2017 7:57 am
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This month, more than a thousand students gathered at Yale University. They gathered on the basketball courts inside a huge gym and they sat down to code.


It was a hackathon - competitors took to the problem of fake news. The winning programmers made an extension that you can add to your Internet browser which is called Open Mind, designed to help separate the bogus from the real.

KING: One of the programmers who made Open Mind says the answer to fake news requires more than code. Stefan Uddenberg is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale.

STEFAN UDDENBERG: Most approaches try to train a machine to essentially delineate between fake and real news. You can't necessarily be sure that your algorithm is going to be smart enough to do so, so our approach was to rather train people on how to do this themselves.

KING: Another member of the team, Michael Lopez-Brau, says that's what Open Mind does - it encourages you to seek more information.

MICHAEL LOPEZ-BRAU: So as you're navigating the Web, whether it be social media site or just doing some random Google searches, our app will be tracking your browsing history and basically performing an analysis of what kind of text it is you're reading.

INSKEEP: And if the computer notices you leaning in a particular political direction, it's going to let you know. You can actually go to a dashboard, see your own bias and get suggestions for reputable outlets on another side.

LOPEZ-BRAU: One, we hope that people will appreciate having a very easy access to news from the other side of the aisle, and two, that people will also appreciate having real-time analytics so that they can better monitor the kind of news that they digest.

UDDENBERG: Sort of like how when you're on a diet or something, you're trying to monitor your nutrition intake. The vision for this is like that but for news.

KING: The programmers say they're going to launch Open Mind early next year. The prize, by the way, for winning the hackathon is a visit to Congress, where they'll get to show off their product to some very polarized news consumers.

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