[VIDEO] Reporters’ Lab students test Share the Facts skill on Amazon Echo

Student researchers asked "Alexa" about numerous fact-checks, in order to help improve her accuracy and comprehension

By Rebecca Iannucci – February 27, 2017 | Print this article

If you walked into the Reporters’ Lab in the last few weeks, you heard a lot of questions for Alexa.

“Alexa, ask the fact-checkers: Is it true that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election?… Is it true that Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax?… Do schools really have guns to protect students from bears?”

Student researchers in the lab have been peppering our Amazon Echo with questions – some serious and some absurd –  as part of a user testing project for our Share the Facts skill for the Echo.

Share the Facts is the first fact-checking app for the Echo. When you enable it on your Echo, Alexa responds to queries with summaries from the Washington Post, PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and GossipCop, a Hollywood fact-checker, among others. We’ve been conducting the tests to improve the likelihood the Echo will match a query with a published fact-check. Our students tested more than 100 new queries on Alexa so we can better understand the reasons behind her hits and misses.

Check out the video below for a sample of the students’ tests:

Our tests found hits and misses. For example, a question about the fictional Bowling Green Massacre was answered with a fact-check about Kellyanne Conway’s false statements on the subject.

But when asked if Donald Trump’s inauguration was really the most watched ever, Alexa replied, “GossipCop rated it Zero when HollywoodLife said Kanye West is performing at Donald Trump’s inauguration.” (Uh, okay…)

Overall, though, the user testing served an important purpose: to better understand and improve how Share the Facts is used, in order to provide more immediate and accurate fact-checks to a curious audience.