Today, the people in our social media networks serve as news reporters and curators, creating the opportunity for broad conversation and widespread media consumption. However, with so much information available and such a low threshold for sharing it, it is difficult for readers to understand the intentional or unintentional angle from which an author is writing. We believe that it is important for media producers and consumers to have an accessible way to gather information about the context in which a news article was produced.
Acumen is a Chrome extension with a collection of tools for readers to become more aware of potential bias in news articles. Our approach addresses three key areas: content analysis, author background information, and audience reception. In the content analysis tab, a reader can choose to highlight "weasel words," a set of words that can indicate bias in reporting, as well as compare the overall sentiment of an article with articles on the same topic from other authors and outlets. The author information tab provides a background for the author, including a brief bio, a list of other recent articles, and their presence on social media. Readers can also learn more about the news outlet by reviewing its slogan, ownership and influences, and age. Finally, the audience reception tab visualizes geographic information about the people who are reading and engaging with the piece worldwide.
Acumen intentionally provides no evaluative judgement on any bias that may be in present in the content. Instead, it quickly displays relevant information to empower any reader to answer questions of intent and authenticity with educated opinions of their own. By receiving small badge alerts and viewing all information within the existing browser window, readers are encouraged to engage with news media in a way that feels natural and unobtrusive and allows the information to enhance a reader's understanding of the content without shifting the focus away from it.