The Global Challenges Competition


  • News Lens was created by two students at the University of St Andrews to combat the issue of ‘fake news’ and misinformation.
  • Our mission is to harness the power of technology, using it to prevent misleading or false information from influencing politics.


A striking development of recent time has been the emergence of a ‘post-fact’ world, in which virtually all authoritative information sources are challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and origin. The myriad of internet-based news sources and so-called ‘fake news’ challenges objective political knowledge and how we access it. In light of these developments, how can we improve the way we read, consume, interpret and understand news about politics? What strategies can we implement in civil society that will enable the cultivation of intelligence, understanding, and judgement about political event?


What is fake news?


  • ‘Fake news’ was not a term many people used 18 months ago, but it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order.

  • As well as being a favourite term of Donald Trump, it was also named 2017’s word of the year, raising tensions between nations, and may lead to regulation of social media.

  • ‘Fake news’ has become a weapon for populist movements across the globe, where biased sources have contorted conjecture and conspiracy into fact.
  • The decline of traditional print and exponential rise of online media has shifted and amplified target audiences, encouraging the public to consider easy-access and often misleading sources of information. 
  • Social media has broken down many of the boundaries that prevented ‘fake news’ from spreading in democracies, allowing anyone to create and disseminate information.
  • Widespread media illiteracy has left millions of people prone to believing fake or inaccurate news stories, greatly affecting the outcome of political elections in democracies.
  • Effective measures to prevent the spread of ‘fake news’ must not solely target the source of information; Governments and civil society have the responsibility to educate readers in verifying the validity of online news sources.

Read more about the adverse effects of misinformation on Italian and European politics.

Technology can be a double-edged sword:
The rise of social media platforms has undoubtedly fuelled misinformation in the 21st century. However, technological advancement has also helped humanity overcome many obstacles in the past.

Successful approaches to combatting ‘fake news’ must harness the avenues and opportunities made available through technology.

The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI):
AI technologies, particularly machine learning and natural language processing, must be leveraged to address the fake news problem.

We believe these technologies show great potential in automating human fact-checkers, ultimately facilitating the process of determining the truth from what’s fake.

The aim of News Lens is twofold:
1. To identify potentially misleading sources of information.

2. To educate readers and help them become resilient to ‘fake news’.

How does News Lens work?
News Lens is a browser extension for Chrome that searches all links on a given web-page for references to unreliable news sources, checking against a manually compiled list of domains obtained from OpenSources.

Whenever a link appears on your screen that references a potential source of ‘fake news’, News Lens highlights the link in red. You’ll see a magnifying glass on either side of the source in question. Hovering over the link will reveal a text-box that outlines reasons for warning readers.

News Lens targets the spread of misinformation on online platforms, particularly social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

Download the extension from the Chrome Web Store today!


Open Sources uses combinations of the following tags to classify each website:

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports

Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.

Extreme Bias: Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, de-contextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.

Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.

Rumor Mill: Sources that traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.

State News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.

Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.

Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.

Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.

Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).

What does the future hold for News Lens?
  • We aim to expand News Lens by using an extensive database of both credible and non-credible news articles, such as the Fake News Corpus, to train deep learning algorithms in detecting sources of fake news that have not yet been identified. We are also looking to develop a system that uses fact-checking to automatically refute or support claims made in an article.


What can you do to identify ‘fake news’?


  • Be sceptical of headlines: False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  • Look closely at the URL: A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  • Investigate the source: Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organisation, check their ‘About’ section to learn more.
  • Watch for unusual formatting: Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these things.
  • Consider the photos: False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  • Inspect the dates: False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  • Check the evidence: Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  • Is the story a joke?: Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humour or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  • Some stories are intentionally false: Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.


Contact Us

Any questions? Just get in touch. 

Eduardo Gomez

Sapphire Le Sage