FishBarrel: New browser plugin lets you bust quacks in seconds

Simon Perry's new 'FishBarrel' plugin automates the process of reporting misleading claims made on quacks' websites to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards

It turns out, shockingly, that not everything you read on the internet is true. Some people on the internet are wrong, and some of those people are dangerously wrong, particularly when it comes to making dodgy health claims about things they sell.

Of course you can report these people to Trading Standards or to the Advertising Standards Authority (who now cover internet adverts as well) but writing letters is time-consuming and boring and something that elderly curtain-twitchers do to fill the endless void between episodes of Countdown.

If only there were a snazzy browser-based solution that enabled you to make complaints in seconds, see whether others had already complained about a site, and actually detect if the site was changed after your complaint.

OMFG there is!!

Simon Perry and his web software development company Xibis have cobbled together FishBarrel, a browser plugin for Chrome (and soon also Firefox, he assures me) which is designed to make reporting homeopaths, chiropractors and other dubious types as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

FishBarrel is a plugin for Google Chrome that manages the process of making an ASA or Trading Standards complaint so that it takes just a few seconds.

FishBarrel also tracks all text complained about in a central database. When you turn on FishBarrel, any text complained about by other users is automatically highlighted. This prevents you from submitting duplicate complaints to the ASA.

Finally, FishBarrel can automatically revisit the websites later and check if the claims have been removed.

It's a brilliant idea, but then maybe I'm a bit biased. So in the interests of balance I sent a link to the new plugin to a selection of the leading professional bodies in the British alternative medicine industry, and asked what they thought about it.

Sadly most of them haven't gotten back to me yet due to something called "Easter" (if they do, I'll be sure to post their comments), but I managed to get a couple of responses. The General Chiropractic Council (who were left holding the ball when 1 in 4 chiropractors in Britain were under investigation for misleading claims) and the British Chiropractic Association (who were the chief inspiration for the Libel Reform Campaign) both got back to me via e-mail yesterday. You can see the sum total of their comments below:

No comment.

Anyway, you can find the plugin with an explanation here, and below is a handy video guide. Enjoy!