In our ideologically charged political environment and with ever greater amounts of money finding its way to campaigns at the national, state and local level and with fewer journalists working in large newsrooms. Just as in war, truth becomes the first casualty.
News organizations have developed "fact checking" websites that attempt to research and assess the relative truth of claims made by politicians, lobbying groups, news commentators, and others.These include : fact checking services such as Fact Checker blog , Factcheck.org and Politifact.
However, it requires listeners to access these sites themselves and search for existing instances where the relevant claims may have been examined. This can require significant effort and time. Meanwhile, many false or exaggerated claims can take on a life of their own and become the basis for political judgements, before they are ever critically scrutinized. A perfect situation for for practicing demagoguery.
What all citizens and voters could really use, is a service that could identify claims being made and provide a near-real-time verdict on the truthfulness and accuracy of such claims. This might seem like wishful thinking or science fiction.
However,while still works in progress, two new computer applications from the Washington Post and from"Truth Goggles", are working on making that wish a reality.
On the "Welcome to Truth Teller" web page, the Washington Post team describes how their pilot app that "...will use with a combination of several technologies — some new, some very familiar. We’ve combined video and audio extraction with a speech-to-text technology to search a database of facts and fact checks."
The software can translate the audio of a broadcast,turn it into a text file, identify potential claims in the text and match them with those in an existing database of vetted statements and present a verdict or assessment in near-real time to the viewer.
With an expanding database, and continued use and iteration of the system, the matches will become more relevant and accurate. [ see blog post describing some of the technology being used ]
The Truth Teller web page describes their process :"When you watch a Truth Teller video, you’ll see that it’s analyzing the speech for any false claims:" "When it finds one, we’ll tell you whether it’s true or false, and give you a link to more reporting"
The Washington Post team is partnering "...with Dan Schultz, a recent MIT Media Lab graduate who has been working on a related project. "Truth Goggles" would be a Web browser plugin that would alert a user if the content they’re reading includes statements that have been checked by PolitiFact or another entity."
"Truth Googles" appears to work in a similar fashion to Truth Teller. but the developer plans to try to include an additional feature that could allow "...the ability to view news through the lens of RELATIVE truths rather than just the attempted absolute truth. For instance, what would a superliberal democrat believe? What would a tea party member believe? What do people from Ohio think?
Truth Goggles attempts to work toward "relative truth" assessments, creates a conundrum for theses types of applications. A working assumption of these apps is that there are truthful claims or false claims. Or perhaps, partially true or partially false statements. But conceding that what is considered "true", only depends on the speaker's or listeners's politics, would undermine the basis and value of the apps.
Deliberate misinformation, from whatever source, needs to be clearly identified, for the app to be effective in positively impacting our public discourse.