Sep 12, 2013

Pronounced rebutter as in rebuttal

I would like to introduce everyone to rbutr , a project which we first encountered at The Amazing Meeting 2012  (TAM2012) and have been following the progress of ever since. Here is a brief description of the project from the founder:

rbutr is a browser extensions which tells you when the page you are viewing has been disputed elsewhere on the net. This achieves more than just exposing you to opposing perspectives, it incorporates critical analysis and critical thinking in to your everyday experience of the web. 


Imagine a future where the internet continues to allow people to indiscriminately seek out the information they want, but provides that self-selected-information within a framework which reminds them to consume the information critically. Imagine the consequence of always having the option to access a directly opposing counter-argument. Imagine a world where critical analysis was just the natural next step to take after being exposed to new information… Perhaps we can create a world where logical fallacies, cognitive biases, and statistical deceptions will all become part of how we screen the information we read?


Changing people's minds can be hard. But creating an internet which teaches people to be cautious about making their minds up in the first place…? This could be the way to break the cycle. This could help save children from being brain washed in to false beliefs, or being manipulated in to biased thinking patterns. 


Help us transform the internet from a passive, bias-confirming, information delivery system in to an educational tool which teaches critical thinking through demonstration.


So with rbutr, the internet will give people a much more comprehensive view of complex issues, and will teach them how to critically consume the information they encounter. This could be a big breakthrough in resolving the problem of how misinformation seems to spread faster on the internet than the correcting information. If we attach the correcting information directly to the misinformation, then it can't escape it…


The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering. We think that rbutr could help achieve these aims, and therefore we support their efforts. We hope that you do too, and will start participating in their project with us.

For more information on rbutr, see here: Getting to Know rbutr  

You can also follow them on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Written By: Mike Cornwell
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9 comments on “rbutr

  • 2
    Seraphor says:

    A brilliant idea, but I can’t hellp feeling it’s all a little self serving. A great tool for me, and everyone else who fequents this site, but the people who really need it are never going to install it.

    I can only see this saving children from being brainwashed, or changing peoples minds, if it is build directly into browsers, instead of being an optional add-on. Strike a deal with Microsoft, Mozilla, or Google, that’s the only waythis is going to work.

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  • Hi Seraphor!
    I definitely hope to one day work our way in to the architecture of the internet so that everyone always has access to rebuttals. But in order to get there, we must first prove that the principle is sound, that people will use it, and that people want it. So we have to start with the limited version and build up. So if that involves preaching to the converted for a while, then so be it. I think it is worth it for the chance of getting the endgame where children grow up in a world without authoritarian information control.

    However, I think the assumption that only “we” are going to use it is not completely true. No doubt certain groups will ignore it. I don’t expect to see an Amish users any time soon, but most people are passionate about one subject or another. And if someone installs rbutr to rebut articles on climate change, they will then find their beliefs on Creationism and Vaccination also being challenged, for example.

    By virtue of covering all topics, rbutr will be able to reach all people – and most importantly, it will be able to reach them when it matters the most, right when they encounter information for the first time. When they don’t yet have a belief, and are about to form one. This is when we need rbutr there, providing the whole story!

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  • 4
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    This could be a great time saver. I’ve spent entire minutes believing a thing, even hours, before I stumble upon a superior counterpoint.

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  • How many people enjoy using Microsoft Word? My guess is not many. It takes a long time to load and it is packed with so many features it can make what should be a simple task overly complex. Believe it or not I used to love Word. Once upon a time when it only ran on the Mac platform (this was before Windows, ancient history) it was a great little word processor. Lean, fast, and the features it did have for outlining were very easy to use and intuitive. Then year after year Microsoft added more “features” and every year I hated it more. That is what I think of when I see tools like this. Its feature bloat and turning something elegant — an Internet browser — into something that is big, clunky, and ever more error prone.

    Every time you load one of these plugins you slightly decrease the performance of your browser and you increase the chance that a minor problem may escalate into a full blown crash. So unless I really, really want it (e.g. AdBlock) I stay away from plugins. And this one seems to me to be just a gimmick. I don’t need some tool to tell me that I should think critically about something I find on the Internet. I know that already and I’m more than capable of using Google to find relevant alternative views. The last thing I want is some bloatware looking over my shoulder while I browse.

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