A brand new search engine called Hoaxy, which aims to track the spread of fake news, is now available in beta. The search engine was created by Indiana University’s Network Science Institute and its Center for Complex Networks and System Research.
Hoaxy indexes content from what are said to be 132 sites known for producing fake news. The search engine is capable of creating visual representations of how stories from these sites spread across social media.
Simply search for a subject using Hoaxy and it will return suspected fake news stories related to that search term. This is an efficient way to confirm the validity of a story. For example, if you’re suspicious of a news story being false, you can look up the subject in Hoaxy and see if it returns some of the stories you’ve been reading.
I’m going to grab a subject from Mashable’s list of top fake news stories of 2016 to show you how Hoaxy works. Let’s look at the story about the Corona beer founder who allegedly left a fortune to a small village after passing away.
This story was proven to be false, but how did it spread so far in the first place? Hoaxy knows. Searching for “Corona founder” returned the following result. As you can see it is clearly marked as being false:
To visualize how the news spread, check the box next to the search result and scroll down to the bottom of the screen where you’ll see a “Visualize” button. Click the button and you’ll get a screen that looks like the one below:
The graph shows how the story spread over time, while the chart on the right hand side visualizes who initially published the news on Twitter and then who shared shared it from there.
Hoaxy is not perfect and has its flaws. For example, it only tracks the spread of news on Twitter, which is less than ideal considering Facebook has been heavily criticized for its spread of fake news of late.
However, the search engine just launched today and is still in beta. As it develops it could end up being a valuable took for vetting news stories.