Confirmation bias has been a problem since the dawn of the information age- perhaps even prior. The web has only exasperated the problem. There is, quite literally, more information than we know what to do with.
And as we develop an insulated presence on social media, the downward spiral progresses further. Personally, I’ve spent years trimming and pruning my social media feeds. The result is a double-edged sword: the information I see comes from what I consider interesting, trusted sources, with very little fluff. The flip side is that my streams have become very insulated; rarely am I exposed to new information. Confirmation bias has found its breeding ground.
Enter Rbutr. Rbutr is a simple Chrome (and soon Firefox and Opera) add-on that alerts you when you’re on a page for which opposing viewpoints have been given, linking to them directly. For example, below you can see a Wall Street Journal article on climate change, and once the page loads, I can easily see that eleven rebuttals to the op-ed exist. Clicking on the extension shows me the opposing viewpoints:
The rebuttals are divided into two categories: direct (those that are direct responses to the page you’re on) and general (those that refute the general viewpoint of the topic in question). To help improve the accuracy of the service, the bottom of the extension offers a chance to confirm the page you’re on as either a source or a rebuttal.
Once you’ve confirmed, you can then fine-tune the metadata by entering general subject, tag groups, or top-level tags.
Rbutr also keeps all of your activity in a profile, allowing you to keep track of sources, rebuttals, and more.
The overabundance of information is not a problem that will be solved with a simple Chrome extension; it will take a comprehensive approach from many angles, and will very largely depend on the user’s habits and personal methods. That said, Rbutr is a very necessary step in the right direction.
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