SILICON ALLEY: NYC Startup Nobias Helps Users Vet News Choices, Counter Misinformation and get Balanced Media “Diet”

Today, Manhattan-based Nobias announced the company and Chrome browser extension that shines a light on the bias and credibility of online news – at the publication, article and author levels.

We took the opportunity to ask Nobias CEO Tania Ahujaquestions about the company’s mission and solution:

What does Nobias do?

Nobias is a free Chrome extension that empowers users with information needed to better evaluate news choices and ensure a more balanced information “diet.” News today is so polarized and factions people into groups, leaving no room for other perspectives. People tend to lock themselves inside of their own echo chamber when it comes to news, so the dialog often gets lost. We want Nobias to burst filter bubbles, allowing everyone to develop their own unique and balanced point of view.

What was your second choice for a name?

We came up with a couple – Unbiased and Know Your Bias, but eventually ended up on Nobias. It can be split up as “No Bias” and can also be read as “No BS”, meaning you are only reading news that is in fact credible.

Do you have any user stories?

We have interviewed quite a few users and have so far received very positive feedback. One user emphasized frustration with seeing news the way it is, and how helpful it has been to see stories from a different point of view. Another thanked us for highlighting the bias and tendencies of liberal media.

How does the Chrome extension assess media credibility and bias?

The Chrome extension determines credibility and bias by not only looking at the publication but also assessing the article and the author. For credibility, we looked at the editorial strength of each publisher using LexisNexis source rank. And for authors, we looked at their employer and whether he or she has won any journalistic awards.

For bias, we drew from the published methodology of Matthew Gentzkow/Jesse Shapiro in Econometrica (2010), which utilized the Congressional Record, and identified keywords or phrases that would be considered left or right. We then trained our AI/ML algorithm to apply that to indexed content and determine slant.

Additional information on how credibility and bias is ranked can be found on the Nobias website. We are committed to offering full transparency about our methods and technology.

How do you bring users up to speed?

Most users are aware of media bias but not as aware of their own role in exacerbating the bias in their newsfeeds. We’re not changing the news out there or how people find it online. And we certainly are not trying to limit their choices. What we are doing is enhancing the browsing experience with info on news bias and credibility, at the publication and article/author levels. Users can hover over the small Nobias icons that appear in Google, Facebook, and on several news sites, and go to the toolbar should they want more information. And as always, they can check our criteria for bias and credibility on the website, as well as check their own biases.

Who are your competitors?

This is a huge market with a lot of good work still to be done. It is certainly a big problem and there have been a range of approaches and solutions. What we wanted to do is not have consumers wait for big tech to resolve it and instead put power into the hands of users.

We provide insights at the article level rather than just information on the source or site like most our competitors. Our technology is scalable and can cover many more sites, compared to companies that manually curate information. Our end-users are our customers – we will never bypass our customer and go to Facebook or Google for monetization . Lastly, unlike many that may not be forthcoming about how they determine credibility/bias, our methodology is completely transparent – everything is available on our website.

What is the business model?

We have a freemium model where our end-users will always be the main priority and for them, the core functionality on political news will stay free with no ads. The company plans on expanding and unveiling premium features in the future, providing insights for financial news and health news as well as offering a kind of “Fitbit” for a more balanced media diet.


This article has previously been published on Silicon Alley

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