Fake news is a real issue in today’s media, and Google is now trying to help its users identify fake news and track their Internet usage through a program called Stack Up.
I heard it had many helpful resources for students and even had a way to detect fake online news, which is a problem that has been brought to the forefront recently. With this in mind, I knew the easiest way to learn about Stack Up would be to give it a test run.
Stack Up is an expansion of Google Chrome that requires you to sign up. If you are like me, this process is very simple. All you have to do is sign up for Stack Up by entering your Google account and you are a member. If you do not have a Google account no need to worry, it is painless and it does not cost you to become a member or to use the Stack Up expansion. A person can create a Stack Up account by going to www.stackup.net.
Using Stack Up was easy at first; however, the more I used the product, the more questions and concerns I started to have. For starters, I am not a Google Chrome user and Stack Up is unavailable to any other web browsers. This is only a minor issue that won’t affect everyone, but if you are in a situation like me, it is an inconvenience. Another issue I found was that you have to make sure that your Stack Up account is logged in as well as your Google account at all times or you won’t get to use any of its features. This too is a minor issue but can be frustrating when it is having technical difficulties.
As mentioned before, Stack Up is a good tool for any college student looking to use the internet as a source of information. Personally, as a student, it is sometimes hard for me to manage my time correctly, and Stack Up was there to help. Stack Up breaks down every website that you go to into different categories: entertainment, research, sports, and many others. Stack Up also tracks the amount of time you spend on each website and category. It even has a tab of suggested sites for each category. Not only did I find helpful websites for school, but I also found websites that could help me find a job or something as simple as a website to find a new recipe for dinner that night.
One of the most intriguing aspects about Stack Up was its newest feature that was created to help students spot fake news. I figured the feature would block the user from anything that Google figured to be fake news, but I was wrong. It was actually a checklist/pop-up that made the student think critically about the website they were visiting. Within it was four simple questions but ones I had never really thought about: Who is the author or source? Who is the website trying to reach or convince? Is this credible or reliable? Does the website provide both sides of the issue? Next, I checked out some websites that were less than credible to see what happened.
I decided to start off simple and go with a couple of bad websites that Stack Up themselves suggested to see how their new fake news detector worked. Sure enough, it worked like a charm. However, when I decided to go off and look at some other websites on my own it didn’t seem to be as effective. The first website I used to investigate with was The Onion. If you don’t know, The Onion is a satire based website that makes up fake news. I figured Stack Up would flag this site immediately, but it actually filed it under the category of comedy and never brought up the checklist of questions. I did another quick search on Donald Trump admitting that aliens have visited planet earth. The article claimed that President Trump would be holding a news conference to tell everyone that he had facts that aliens have visited planet earth in the past. Once again, I got no checklist of questions from Stack Up and had to start questioning its overall effectiveness.
My first impressions with Stack Up were a mixed bag. There were a lot of helpful tools such as the suggested websites and time tracker, but the good just seemed to be overshadowed by the negatives. The main attraction to Stack Up for me was the fake news filter was a complete dud. It seemed to work on articles that were obviously fake but when it came to anything that was even questionably true, it just seemed to not work at all. Then throw in the fact that you have to make sure you are logged in at all times and use Google Chrome, just didn’t work for me.
Yes, Stack Up does have some positives that even I may use in the future, but in the end, I’m skeptical of Stack Up and people should be too. If a person does use Stack Up, make sure that you are still using your own critical thinking and not solely relying on Google’s new tools.