Michael Lopez-Brau and I are students of cognitive psychology and were intrigued by the work of Yale faculty members David Rand and Gordon Pennycook on how warning people about fake news can sometimes hurt more than it helps.
From such studies, we knew that some of the efforts to combat fake news, such as Facebook's warnings to readers that certain articles are of dubious authenticity, wouldn't work. In fact, calling attention to offending headlines with warnings from fact checkers might have the unintended effect of making other fake news headlines (that don't have warning labels) seem even more true.
It wasn't until we teamed up with Alex Cui from the California Institute of Technology and Jeff An from the University of Waterloo at Yale's hackathon, or YHack, that we came up with a solution. We call it Open Mind.
The new program is an extension on Google Chrome. It flags fake news websites with extremely visible warnings and hides these websites until the user intentionally clicks a button to unhide it. Second, and most important, it presents readers with articles of differing political viewpoints on the topics that they are most interested in and read about most often. It also gives users a snapshot of the political biases in their reading history and suggests additional news sources to balance out their media diet.
We are proud to have been selected among 23 competitors to be invited to Washington, D.C., to present our ideas for members of Congress. Our hope is to help people become better informed media consumers and to truly value free, open and honest press.
Michael Lopez-Brau and Stefan Uddenberg are doctoral candidates in psychology at Yale University.