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It's Like Snopes For Your Inbox

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, November 28 2012

A group of developers have created a tool that uses information from Politifact and Factcheck.org to highlight red flags for forwarded e-mails that contain misinformation. The tool, LazyTruth, is currently only available as a Chrome extension for Gmail, although the developers say they are interested in expanding to other email providers and browsers.

"The LazyTruth inbox extension surfaces pre-existing verified information to debunk viral rumors when the information is needed most: in our inboxes," the developers write on their website. "The gadget is triggered by the unique phrases used in the most common viral emails tracked by factchecking and urban rumor websites. When you receive a viral email full of fallacies, LazyTruth retrieves and displays a verified rebuttal, and provides you with the original sources."

The tool is a MIT Media Lab Civic Media research project, where it was developed with the help of Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media; Matt Stempeck, a graduate student at the center; Justin Nowell, Product Manager/Software Developer at BiddingForGood; Evan Moore, an undergraduate student at MIT; David Kim, an intern at Google; and Stefan Fox and David Kang.

The developers say that they hope the tool will make it "much more convenient for citizens to combat misinformation, rather than acquiesce to its volume." They also cite research showing that "40% of all polled age groups of Americans share and forward political information online, and older online political users are the most likely to forward political content and commentary," as trust in information from friends and family has grown while trust in traditional news outlets has dropped.

But for the moment, the tool doesn't seem to be a solution to the misinformation spreading on other sources, such as the debunked privacy notice on Facebook that is still circulating days after several news outlets dismissed it.

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