“Share the Facts”

[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.

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Fact-checking comes to the Amazon Echo

New skill from the Duke Reporters’ Lab allows users to 'ask the fact-checkers'

By Erica Ryan – October 21, 2016 | Print this article

The Duke Reporters’ Lab has created a new fact-checking app for the Amazon Echo.

The app is a spin-off of Share the Facts, a project that has expanded the reach of fact-checking. The launch partners are PolitiFact, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and FactCheck.org.

With the new Share the Facts skill, owners of the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices, including the Tap and the Dot, can “ask the fact-checkers” about claims they hear from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as other candidates and politicians who have been checked.

Share the Facts is now available in the Skills section of the Alexa app. (To find it, open the Alexa app on your smartphone, click on the left navigation panel, and then select “Skills.” From there, you can search for “Share the Facts” and select “Enable Skill.”)

We encourage you to try checking candidates’ claims from your couch after watching a campaign ad or during a discussion around the dinner table.

To begin a query, say: “Alexa, ask the fact-checkers.” (If you’re using the Tap, you’ll need to press the microphone button first and then say, “Ask the fact-checkers.”)

We have found it often works best if you wait for Alexa to reply, “Welcome to Share the Facts. We consolidate fact-checks from some of the most respected journalists in the U.S. Ask me to check a fact you’re wondering about” — and then ask your question, such as:

  • “Did Donald Trump oppose the war in Iraq?”
  • “Was Hillary Clinton right that her email practices were allowed?”
  • “Is it true that 300,000 Floridians have lost their health insurance because of Obamacare?”

Try to use the most important keywords in your question, following the examples above.

Share the Facts uses natural speech recognition to analyze and answer your questions from our database of roughly 2,000 professionally curated fact-checks. We scale our results so that they are timely and have the most consensus among our partners.

We welcome your feedback on our new Echo skill Share the Facts. Please send your thoughts to Share the Facts project manager Erica Ryan.

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Reporters’ Lab to experiment with pop-up fact-checking during debate

The beta test of the Chrome extension will allow viewers to see real-time fact-checking with a livestream of the debate.

By Bill Adair – October 17, 2016 | Print this article

On Wednesday, the Duke Reporters’ Lab will test a new tool that will provide on-screen fact-checking during the third presidential debate.

The tool, a free extension for Chrome browsers, will provide real-time fact-checking from PolitiFact. Users will see a livestream of the debate with occasional messages that will pop onto the screen showing PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rating for statements by the candidates.

We welcome your feedback. To try the tool, you must have the Chrome browser and download the extension. Follow the directions to get a personal identification number to activate it.

The “FactPopUp” tool was built by Gautam Hathi, a Duke computer science student who works in the Reporters’ Lab. The pop-ups will be generated by a PolitiFact editor watching the debate. When the editor hears one of the candidates make a claim that PolitiFact has checked before, the editor will quickly publish a tweet with a summary and the Truth-O-Meter rating. The summary and the rating then pop up on the livestream.

Viewers who take part in the beta test of our new browser extension will see fact-checks appear on a livestream of the debate.
Viewers who try our new browser extension will see fact-checks appear over a livestream of the debate.

Our private tests in the first two debates have been encouraging. The fact-checks pop up relatively quickly after the candidate makes the claim. It is reminiscent of the VH1 show Pop Up Video, which provided sometimes irreverent annotation to rock videos in the 1990s.

Our Chrome tool has some limitations. You need to have your own Twitter account so you can receive the fact-checks from PolitiFact’s tweets. And the browser extension can only provide pop-ups for statements that PolitiFact has previously researched and rated. And its quickness depends on the editor’s knowledge of PolitiFact’s 500-plus fact-checks on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The extension is being released as a beta for public testing, not as a final product. Hathi is optimistic that the extension will work well, but cautions that in some tests there have been delays in showing the pop-up.

Still, we’re hopeful that this will be a small first step toward the “Holy Grail” of fully automated fact-checking. Once we work out the bugs, we will make the browser extension available as an open source tool that can be used by others. Please send us feedback at factpopup@gmail.com.

The Reporters’ Lab, which is part of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, is exploring a variety of ways to automate fact-checking and expand the audience for this growing form of journalism. Earlier this year we unveiled the Share the Facts, a widget that provides a new way for readers to share fact-check articles and spread them virally across the Internet..

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Fact-checking Twitter feeds offer new way to follow 2016 campaigns

New Reporters’ Lab feeds track false claims, all checks of Clinton and Trump

By Erica Ryan – August 25, 2016 | Print this article

The Duke Reporters’ Lab has created three new Twitter feeds to help voters keep up with fact-checking during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Twitter feeds feature fact-checks from three partner sites: PolitiFact, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and FactCheck.org. All three are part of the Share the Facts project, an effort to expand the reach of fact-checkers using a shareable widget that summarizes their conclusions.

The feeds allow you to follow fact-checks of both major party presidential candidates, as well as falsehoods from across the political spectrum:

Share the Falsehoods (@sharefalse): This feed automatically tweets a Share the Facts widget any time a claim is determined to be:

Share Trump Facts (@share_trump): This feed includes all fact-checks of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Share Clinton Facts (@share_clinton): Like the Trump feed, this account will update with all fact-checks of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

These three new Twitter feeds join the main Share the Facts Twitter account (@sharethefact) and the project’s Facebook page in offering easy ways to find and share fact-checking.

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5 share-worthy fact-checks of Clinton’s acceptance speech

Use our widget to share the facts behind the nominee’s talking points

By Erica Ryan – July 29, 2016 | Print this article

As Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential candidate to accept the nomination of a major political party on Thursday night, fact-checkers dug into the talking points and attack lines that peppered her speech.

PolitiFact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org were among those sorting the truth from the fiction. Here’s a roundup of five of their fact-checks that you can share on Facebook and Twitter using the Share the Facts widget, created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google. You can also embed them in articles and blog posts.

1. “Don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it.’ Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland.”

Clinton used this line to contrast her style with that of her opponent, Republican Donald Trump. But FactCheck.org found it’s not so cut-and-dried: “In fact, Trump said that as a political outsider only he can fix a ‘rigged’ system. He has spoken about working with others many times, including in that same speech.”

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2. Trump ties are made “in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.”

PolitiFact was able to verify all of the examples Clinton cited – except for the picture frames made in India. It also found some Trump-branded products made in the U.S., such as his signature “Make America Great Again” hats.

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3. “More than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is.”

These numbers are based on older data, according to The Washington Post.

“There is increasing evidence that income imbalance has improved in recent years as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession,” it reports. The most recent calculations show the top 1 percent got 52 percent of the income gains between 2009 and 2015.

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4. “Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs” have been created since President Obama took office.

FactCheck.org found this number to be inflated: “In fact, since January 2009, when Obama took office, the private sector has added 10.5 million jobs.”

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5. Trump “claimed our armed forces are ‘a disaster.’”

PolitiFact tracked down this quote from the Republican candidate during a January debate: “I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger,” Trump said. “Our military is a disaster.”

He doesn’t seem to have repeated this wording, PolitiFact found, and in more recent comments has focused more on what he sees as a lack of resources, calling the military “depleted.”

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Want to embed fact-checks like this in your articles and blog posts? Contact us for the easy instructions.

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6 Clinton claims you’re likely to hear in Philly

Use our Share the Facts widget to highlight fact-checking during the Democratic convention

By Erica Ryan – July 25, 2016 | Print this article

The Republicans kept fact-checkers on their toes during their convention in Cleveland. Next, it’s the Democrats’ turn as they gather in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton.

Below is a preview of some talking points you may hear during the Democratic convention and how the fact-checkers at PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and The Washington Post have rated their accuracy.

You can share these fact-checks – and many more – using the Share the Facts widget created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

We encourage you to post the widgets on Facebook and Twitter, or even embed them in articles and blog posts.

On Trump’s finances

On the first night of the convention, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is slated to speak. She has previously painted GOP nominee Donald Trump as a “small, insecure money-grubber,” and she’s likely to repeat previous attacks on his finances.

One claim we might hear is that Trump was “hoping for” a crash in the housing market back in 2006 so he could profit – which PolitiFact rated Mostly True.

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Another claim Democrats have repeated – that past federal tax returns show Trump “hasn’t paid a penny in taxes” – didn’t hold up as well to PolitiFact’s checking. While Trump has declined to release recent tax returns, records show that he did pay income taxes in some years during the 1970s.

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On children and families

The second night of the convention is scheduled to focus on how “Hillary has spent her entire career working to make a difference for children, families and our country,” according to the convention website. One campaign-trail claim Clinton has made on that theme is that she worked with Democrats and Republicans to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

While The Washington Post verified that Clinton played a role in the effort during her time as first lady, it was mostly behind the scenes at the White House and not as “a public advocate who directly worked with lawmakers in both parties.”

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On the economy

President Obama is set to speak on the convention’s third night, which will have a theme of “Working Together” – something the president and his one-time rival have had to do many times since 2008.

One argument Clinton has made for extending her party’s control of the White House is that the economy has fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. While an analysis by two Princeton economists bears that out, FactCheck.org ruled that Clinton is putting a spin on the facts because “the authors of that report do not credit Democratic fiscal policies for the economic growth.”

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Another economic claim Clinton has made is about her Republican opponent’s opposition to the federal minimum wage. While Trump has suggested he’d like to see workers earn more than $7.25 an hour, PolitiFact reports, he has said he would prefer to leave that up to the states, without any federally mandated minimum.

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On foreign policy

Clinton will take the convention stage on Thursday night. As the former secretary of state, Clinton has compared her own foreign policy chops to Trump’s, which she considers lacking.

However, FactCheck.org found she goes too far when she claims that Trump said he boosted his foreign policy experience by running a Miss Universe pagent in Moscow. What he really said was he knew Russia well because of it.

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Bonus: What you won’t hear in Philly

We imagine no Democrat in Philadelphia will even say the word “email” if they can avoid it. But if you want to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the scandal that engulfed Clinton after leaving her post as secretary of state, multiple fact-checkers have broken it down.

Want to embed fact-checks like this in your articles and blog posts? Contact us for the easy instructions.

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Fact-checking Trump’s speech with the Share the Facts widget

A tool from the Reporters’ Lab can help counter politicians’ distortions

By Erica Ryan – July 22, 2016 | Print this article

Republican nominee Donald Trump’s 75-minute acceptance speech on the last night of the GOP convention sent fact-checkers into overdrive.

PolitiFact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org all produced roundups of their research into dozens of Trump’s claims. Here’s a look at four of those claims and the resulting fact-checks, which you can share using the Share the Facts widget.

The widget was created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google. We encourage you to use the widget to share fact-checks on Facebook and Twitter, or even embed them in articles and blog posts.

1. “Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000.”

Here’s how the three fact-checking organizations currently using the Share the Facts widget weighed in on this Trump claim. Click “Read More” on each widget to see the facts behind their conclusions.

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2. “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.”

According to the fact-checkers, this claim from Trump had serious problems.

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3. A “550 percentage increase in Syrian … refugees … [Democrat Hillary Clinton] proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.”

While Clinton has proposed allowing as many as 65,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S., fact-checkers find Trump’s claim that “there’s no way to screen” is not true.

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4. “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”

While the fact-checkers note that Trump has a credible source for his numbers (The Post, in fact), they find he’s guilty of cherry-picking data to give the impression of a scary trend.

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Want to embed fact-checks like this in your articles and blog posts? Contact us for the easy instructions.

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Six Trump claims you’re likely to hear in Cleveland

The GOP convention provides an opportunity to use our Share the Facts widget

By Erica Ryan – July 15, 2016 | Print this article

Politicians love talking points. The scripted lines provide consistency for campaign messages and quotes that are often irresistible to journalists. Talking points are used repeatedly, even by a candidate like Donald Trump who is known to stray from his script.

With the Republican National Convention about to start, we thought it would be helpful to show some of the stock lines we expect to hear and how the nation’s fact-checkers have judged their accuracy. It’s also an opportunity for us to showcase the Share the Facts widget, our new tool that summarizes fact-checks.

For the past several months, PolitiFact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org have been using the widget, which was created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

The three fact-checking outlets have already created more than 1,000 widgets, mostly from the 2016 presidential campaign.

We encourage you to share the facts by posting the widgets on Facebook and Twitter, or even embedding them in articles or blog posts.

On Benghazi

According to The New York Times, the first night of the convention is set to focus on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans during Democrat Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Here’s a look at one Trump claim that FactCheck.org found didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

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On Immigration

Another issue expected to be in the spotlight on Monday night is immigration – an especially hot topic for Trump, who has proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He says the president has the authority to do it, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker found he’s largely correct.

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The Post gave him one Pinocchio because the president does have “broad powers to deny admission of people or groups into the United States. But the power has not been tested in the way that Trump proposes.”

Trump earned four Pinocchios from the Post for a claim tying crime to immigration.

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On the Economy

The second night of the convention is scheduled to have an economic theme, so we expect to hear claims about taxes and trade. FactCheck.org has noted that Trump is fond of repeating that American taxpayers pay more than residents of other countries – which it found isn’t true (though the U.S. business tax rate does rank among the highest in the world).

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Trump also speaks frequently about the U.S. trade deficit with China, and he’s accused Clinton of making it worse. But PolitiFact found he’s assigning the blame in the wrong place, since the secretary of state has a small role in trade policy.

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On His Bid for the Nomination

Keeping with tradition, Trump is expected to speak on the last night of the convention – a speech that is sure to produce many claims for fact-checkers to examine. As he accepts the party’s nomination, he may repeat an assertion about his vote totals in the primary elections that PolitiFact found is mostly true.

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Stay tuned throughout the Republican convention for more opportunities to share the facts.

Want to embed fact-checks like this in your articles and blog posts? Contact us for the easy instructions.

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