While observing the recent US presidential election cycle, Sarthak concluded that fake news is more relevant right now than ever, with its spread and consumption affecting social circumstances and altering the political playing field. During Catalyst last semester, Sarthak created “Debunker” - a browser extension that uses advanced web scraping technologies to determine whether an online news source is “real” or “fake”. The goal of his project was to help users understand whether what they are reading is reliable or fake, and thus making them less likely to read and share unreliable sources. Fake news can’t have any effects on society/politics if nobody reads it, and his project hopes to negate fake news’ butterfly effect.
He worked with mentor Hwee Tou Ng, a professor researching Natural Language Processing at NUS, to reach his end goal of having a browser extension that is able to, when clicked, tell the user whether the page they are currently on is a reliable news source or not. His mentor also helped him to overcome some challenges he faced in developing Debunker, such as scraping data off articles, by transitioning Debunker’s platform from a website to a browser extension.
He is also currently experimenting with integrating my extension into Facebook, by marking links posted in the user’s timeline as reliable or unreliable, as social media is the most common way for fake news to spread.