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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chrome Extension Debunks Your Relatives' Crazy E-Mails

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 6:30 AM

EDWARD PAIK
  • Edward Paik

As you may have heard, Obama's headed back to the White House for a second term in January, which can only mean one thing: Muslim Kenyan Socialist Armageddon is nigh! Our Communist president is coming to take your guns, gay marry your children, and ban sunshine in schools, or so the latest wack e-mail conspiracies would have you believe.

Instead of merely rolling your eyes and deleting whatever crackpot forward your distant (or less distant) relatives and friends send to you, allow us to present to you a better way of dealing with the misinformation that assaults our inboxes.

See also:

How to Deal with Relatives' Spam -- or -- Forward this Post to 10 Friends!

Beyonce Trumps Trump: The Best Election 2012 Celebrity Responses

LazyTruth is a Chrome extension from Matt Stempeck and MIT's Media Lab that analyzes the veracity of your e-mails and then auto-composes a fact-based response, saving us the trouble of having to verify things like whether or not we live in a binder (survey says: False). This has the potential to save Internet users all that time they aren't spending debunking wild political rumors, or in our case, saves us the trouble of having to bother our old Mother Jones coworkers whenever Donald Trump posts something on Facebook.

The plug-in works by highlighting information that mythbusting sites like FactCheck.org and Politifact have deemed shady and providing neutrally worded corrections, as well as links to original sources, where readers can learn more about the issue. According to The Atlantic, Stempeck plans to add other filters that would fact check urban myths, hoaxes, and false photo promises of Justin Bieber's erection, but for now the tool is limited to the political arena. 

The goal of the plug-in is not to shame people into admitting their stupidity, but to help curb the flow of misinformation online (which, as Abraham Lincoln tweeted recently, is copious).

Trust in the media is at a 20-year low, with 63 percent of Americans believing that "news stories are often inaccurate." According to Nielsen, we trust friends and even Internet strangers far more than we trust news organizations, and since over 40 percent of Americans (Pew) share and forward political information online, a tool like LazyTruth makes a lot of sense.

Whether the extension will actually change your crazy cousin's beliefs about Obama's attempts to ban Christmas remains to be seen. Still, it's a pain-free way of rebutting inaccurate information that requires very little effort on our parts. Since 'tis the season to be fighting with our relatives, we might as well be armed with the facts.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. Follow Anna Pulley at @annapulley.
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Anna Pulley

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