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WaPo Debuts ‘Truth Teller’

We’re always weary when WaPo comes up with a new technological feature. It forces us to ask ourselves, how many seconds until our computer crashes? But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a new year. They’ve got a new Executive Editor, Marty Baron. Let’s hope we don’t have to put the IT department on speed dial.

Today WaPo today launches its prototype of “Truth Teller,” a news app that promises to fact check speeches in “near real” time. The model is made possible through Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund. They say it’s a step toward creating an app that can be used during live speeches and discussions. For instance, the current focus is on the looming debate over tax reform. “Users can play videos from President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner and other politicians and instantly see which statements are true, false or misleading,” says a release.

The origins of Truth Teller involve Politics Editor Steven Ginsberg, who heard a politician give a stump speech filled with errors. “He wondered if there could ever be a way to instantly verify what a politician says. Live fact-checking can provide incredible insight to journalists and audiences alike, and we are excited to start the process of creating something as unique and valuable as Truth Teller,” said Cory Haik, WaPo‘s Executive Producer of Digital News, in a statement.

Our first attempt to visit Truth Teller turned up an almost entirely blank screen with an apology. Uh oh. “Oops! Google Chrome could not find www.truthteller.washingtonpost.com.” But nothing a little cutting and pasting couldn’t handle. Explore Truth Teller here.

Of course, the prototype is not without its technical difficulties…Haik, who calls “truth” one of the most important missions of journalism, has more to say about the prototype in an online explanation: “What you see in the prototype is actual live fact checking — each time the video is played the fact checking starts anew. It needs more technical work and we need more facts. For instance if you stumble across what you think is a false positive, let us know (haikc [at] washpost [dot] com) — we’re tuning the algorithm as we go. It’s a proof of concept, a prototype in the truest sense. But do we think this can be applied to streaming video in the future? Yes. Can this work if someone is holding up a phone to record a politician in the middle of a field in Iowa? Presenting the truth is without dispute one of the most important missions of journalism. So yes, we believe it can.”

 

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