Look Ahead: Reallyread.it is a Social Media Movement Promoting News Literacy

With the overwhelming amount of information on the internet, people tend to just read headlines, skim the article, and go straight to the bottom. But that’s about to change with Reallyread.it, a social media platform (currently in beta mode) built for readers that actually read an article all the way through.

For co-founders Jeff Camera and Bill Loundy, it was a chance to keep out the people commenting on articles they hadn’t read, which Camera and Loundy believe will also fight against misinformation.

“Fake news spreads like wildfire on networks like Facebook where people don’t read stuff before they share it,” Loundy said. “People need to take personal responsibility for the info they take in, decide whether or not to trust it, and develop opinions for themselves. For society to function, that’s crucial.”

Bill Loundy (left) and Jeff Camera

It took the team a year of trial and error to get the technology right, but they succeeded. The tech can determine whether or not a person has read an article entirely or if that person is just skimming or scanning their way through it. They know this by the use of a combination of variables: scroll speed, behavior on the page, time, etc. Currently, to participate, community members must sign up through the website and then add a Chrome extension—that’s how they keep track of who’s read what. The articles on the homepage are sorted in an easy-to-navigate way, where when an article is read all the way through by someone in the community, it moves up the algorithm. Similarly, when an article gets a comment, it also moves up. At midnight, the top article becomes “Article of the Day” for the following day.

The specific mechanics are somewhat secret, Loundy confesses, and they have already filed two provisional patents, but ultimately, the concept is pretty straightforward.

“Humans can only read a certain number of words per minute, and if you’re not looking at words on the screen for enough time, we know you didn’t really read it,” said Loundy.

He added that on social media platforms, people either “like/upvote” or “share and retweet” articles for all kinds of reasons not even remotely related to having read the story, but because it makes them look smart or signals a particular belief or viewpoint. On reallyread.it, there isn’t any voting, “likes” or “upvotes” or human moderation.

“Sometimes, for example, it will take me a while to realize that an article is actually an opinion piece,” he said. “I don’t even always notice right away when something is sponsored by a corporate brand, but we need to be vigilant and read, read, read.”

For more information, visit reallyread.it.

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Published: September 6, 2018

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