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

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..