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What could possibly go wrong? — WaPo to debut real-time ‘fact checker’ app

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

Via Advertising Age comes this news:

An app that tells you when politicians are lying? That really does sound too good to be true. But that is what The Washington Post is trying to do with its prototype TruthTellerApp, (which it describes as a “work in progress”).

Essentially an automated way of fact checking in real time, it consists of a software program that recognizes and transcribes speech (such as a video of a politician speaking) into text. As statements are transcribed, they are checked against a database of facts, using keywords. The app will then tell you whether an assertion is true or false, according to other sources.

The app was produced in conjunction with the Knight Foundation’s prototype fund. The idea was inspired by an experience The Post’s National Political Editor Steven Ginsberg had during a 2011 rally held by Michele Bachmann, during which he observed Bachmann misleading her audience, as do other politicians. The publication’s quest then became to provide the public information they need, as they need it. WaPo Executive Producer for Digital News elaborates on the project here.

As this blog and others have noted time and time again, the so-called “fact check” organizations often make highly tendentious and biased arguments about whether a political figure is telling the truth. Sometimes their analysis is just flat out-wrong. In the process, they make it easier, rather than harder, for some politicians to get away with misleading the public by citing these misleading fact checks.

The Washington Post has one of the better teams doing this but they still make mistakes too. An app that tries to do this in real time can only make errors more numerous.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner