Dictionary explains the word ‘hoax’ as a term used to describe an intentionally doctored falsehood created to conceal the truth. Most of the times, people simply go through an article they find on social media networks and refrain themselves from checking the originality or accuracy of the article. Although most of the newspaper companies fact-check every article before publishing, newer publications showcase deliberately altered information that masquerades as the truth, to attract more readers. People go through such unverified but interesting stories, only to find out, a few days later that the entire text was cited from an unreliable and inaccurate source.
As the fake news continue to influence the public opinion, it became important to come up with ways to curtail the spread of false information on social media platforms. And in an attempt to provide a platform for tracking online hoaxes, a search engine, named ‘Hoaxy’ was created as a joint project of the Indiana University Network Science Institute and the Centre for Complex Networks and Systems Research, by Filippo Menczer and Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia. Hoaxy is a website written in Python language.
Seven years ago, Menczer conducted an experiment to understand the impact of fake news on the internet. He created a website for fake celebrity news and started promoting the articles on social bookmarking websites. Menczer was surprised to see how the ad agencies are willing to monetize the websites publishing fake news on the internet. In the years that followed, volume and influence of unverified stories expanded across the web and continued to sway public opinions, and it became necessary to come up with a solution to help people detect the correct information available on the net.
How the site works:
If you come across any article on social media that you believe, may be a misleading, you can put the keywords, phrases, article titles or any claim in the search box of the website. The result will display a list of headlines that appeared in any of the websites that are known to publish unverified or untrue information or satirical articles.
To understand how the website works, let’s check out the validity of a story I found on the Internet. I came across an article which claimed that the popular mobile phone game, Pokemon Go, was predicted by The Simpsons. So, on typing the keywords ‘Simpsons, Pokemon Go’, Hoaxy provided me a list of articles containing the keywords I had entered.
The story was proven to be false. To find out how the news spread on the social media, select the article you want to find out about, and click the ‘Visualize’ button. The screen that appears next is shown below:
The visualization of Hoaxy website shows two aspects of the claim.
The temporal trend (left side of the screen) displays a graph which shows a cumulative number of posts, related to the entered claim, shared on Twitter over a certain period.
The diffusion network (right side of the screen) illustrates an interactive visualization that shows how the altered news has spread from one person to another. Each node of the image represents a Twitter account. The connection between two such nodes shows that a link to a possible fake claim is retweeted, mentioned or quoted by another user.
Clicking on any particular node gives the information about the tweets or link of the claim shared on Twitter by the users.
Limitations of Hoaxy
Hoaxy does not have any editorial team that verifies the content of an article. Thus, Hoaxy doesn’t decide whether a story is true or false. Neither all claims visualized on Hoaxy are false, nor is it possible to fact-check every claim with 100% accuracy. Hoaxy is just a platform where one can track the source of a particular claim or unverified story. The users can visit the fact checking sites to find out about the reality of the news.
Recently, Hoaxy can access only the topics that are shared publicly only on Twitter, although Facebook provides a more vast platform for spreading hoaxes and inaccurate news.
Hoaxy has been launched recently, and there will be further developments to curb the spread of false information on the internet.