“Automated fact-checking”

Knight Foundation, Facebook and Craig Newmark provide funding to launch Duke Tech & Check Cooperative

New automated fact-checking project will build apps and coordinate with other researchers around the world

By Bill Adair – September 25, 2017 | Print this article

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project and the Craig Newmark Foundation are awarding grants to the Duke University Reporters’ Lab for a $1.2 million project to automate fact-checking.

The Duke Tech & Check Cooperative will bring together teams from universities and the Internet Archive to develop new ways to automate fact-checking and broaden the audience for this important new form of journalism.

During the two-year project, computer scientists and journalism faculty from Duke, the University of Texas at Arlington and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo will build a variety of new tools and apps. Some will help journalists with time-consuming reporting tasks, such as mining transcripts, media streams and social feeds for the most important factual claims. Others will provide instant pop-up fact-checking during live events.

The Reporters’ Lab will also coordinate and share its automation efforts with journalists and computer scientists across the country and around the world. The Tech & Check Cooperative will connect the leaders of similar projects through its relationships with the International Fact-Checking Network, the global association of fact-checkers, and awardees of Knight Prototype Fund grants to address misinformation. The Lab will host an annual meeting and will hold regular video conferences.

Knight has provided $800,000 for the project and the Facebook Journalism Project has contributed $200,000. The Newmark Foundation has pledged $200,000.

A multitude of people and solutions are required to tackle the problem of misinformation in the digital age. The Reporters’ Lab is tackling the issue through an effective, multi-pronged approach, bringing together a network of journalists and technologists to build new tools that will promote the flow of accurate news, while strengthening their connections with major technology companies,” said Jennifer Preston, the vice president for journalism at Knight Foundation.

“The Duke Tech & Check Cooperative will tap into the power of technology to improve and expand fact-checking on a global scale,” said Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook. “This important initiative will bring together some of the most respected experts in the industry along with new digital innovations to create practical and efficient tools for journalists and newsrooms.”

 “News consumers like me want the truth, which requires more and better fact-checking,” said Newmark, founder of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation. “The Duke University Tech & Check Cooperative will soon become a vital part of the fact-checking network, and I’m excited to work with them to help build a system of information we can trust.”

The Tech & Check Cooperative will incorporate technology and content developed in Share the Facts, a Duke Reporters’ Lab partnership with the Google News Lab and Jigsaw. Share the Facts provides a way for the world’s fact-checkers to identify their articles for search engines and apps.

“Automated fact-checking is no longer just a dream,” said Bill Adair, the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke and the leader of the Tech & Check Cooperative. “Advances in artificial intelligence will soon make it possible to provide people with real-time information about what’s true and what’s not.”

Partners in the Tech & Check Cooperative include:

● The University of Texas at Arlington, which has developed ClaimBuster, a tool that can mine lengthy transcripts for claims that fact-checkers might want to examine.

● The Internet Archive, which will help develop a “Talking Point Tracker” that will identify factual claims that are used repeatedly by politicians and pundits.

● Truth Goggles, a project created by developer Dan Schultz and the Bad Idea Factory to provide pop-up fact-checking for articles on the web.

● Digital Democracy, an initiative of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, which will develop ways to identify factual claims from video of legislative proceedings in California.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit  knightfoundation.org.

About Facebook

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

The Facebook Journalism Project was created in January 2017 to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry.  FJP focuses on three pillars: collaborative development of new products; tools and trainings for journalists; and tools and trainings for people.

About Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is a Web pioneer, philanthropist, and leading advocate on behalf of trustworthy journalism, voting rights, veterans and military families, and other civic and social justice causes. In 2017, he became a founding funder and executive committee member of the News Integrity Initiative, administered by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which seeks to advance news literacy and increase trust in journalism.

About the Reporters’ Lab

The Duke Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at the Sanford School of Public Policy. The Lab conducts research into fact-checking and explores how automation can be used to help journalists and broaden audiences for their work.

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PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter

Want to test FactPopUp? Here’s how to install and use the fact-checking tool

During Tuesday's speech, Google Chrome users will have another opportunity to experiment with our real-time fact-checking tool

By Gautam Hathi – February 23, 2017 | Print this article

UPDATE. 10 a.m. Feb. 28: We’ve discovered that some users get a black window when they should be seeing a photo of Trump on the livestream page. If that happens to you, close all your Chrome windows and relaunch Chrome. Email us at factpopup@gmail.com if you have problems and we’ll troubleshoot.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Duke Reporters’ Lab will conduct another test of FactPopUp, our real-time fact-checking tool, during President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress. The free Chrome extension will provide users with a livestream of the event, along with occasional pop-up notifications of fact-checks from PolitiFact, which will be checking Trump’s statements live.

Previous tests of FactPopUp have been encouraging, with more than 500 people successfully using the tool to receive fact-checks during the third presidential debate and President Trump’s inauguration.

If you would like to be a part of this test, here are a few simple steps to follow.

1. Go here and click the “Add to Chrome” button.

FactPopUp

2. Click the “Add extension” button on the prompt that comes up.

FactPopUp

3. Click the “Open live stream” button in the page that opens after the extension installs. This should open a web page with a full-screen livestream of the event.

FactPopUp

4. If you have to close the stream window before the event, click on the FactPopUp icon to the right of your Chrome address bar and then click “Open live stream”:

FactPopUp

5. If the FactPopUp icon doesn’t show up next to the address bar, find it in the Chrome menu.

FactPopUp

If you take part, we’d love to hear your feedback. Send your comments and/or questions to factpopup@gmail.com.

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PolitiFact Pants on Fire

Improved version of FactPopUp, our real-time fact-checking tool, now available

The Chrome extension, which fact-checks political events as they happen, is now more reliable and easier to use

By Gautam Hathi – January 26, 2017 | Print this article

We’ve made some improvements to FactPopUp, our real-time fact-checking tool.

FactPopUp allows fact-checking organizations to provide live fact-checks via Twitter to users watching a live stream of a political event on their computers.

The new version is more reliable and easier to use. A Twitter account is no longer required to use the extension, and FactPopUp can be easily configured to receive fact-check tweets from any Twitter account.

Powering the new version of FactPopUp is a significantly revised architecture. Users still download a simple Chrome extension from the Chrome webstore. However, fact-checking organizations will now run a simple server which uses Azure Notification Hubs to check for new tweets and send them to the extension clients.

The new version of FactPopUp was successfully tested by PolitiFact in order to provide live fact-checking for the presidential inauguration. More than 500 people have now participated in tests of FactPopUp, both during the inauguration and the 2016 election debates.

The code for the new version of FactPopUp is now available on GitHub, allowing anyone to set up and experiment with their own version of the system. In addition, FactPopUp is now configured so that the Reporters’ Lab can explore working with a range of fact-checking organizations to leverage FactPopUp for use during major political events around the world.

The Reporters’ Lab will continue to test and iterate FactPopUp, with the goal of eventually creating a universal live fact-checking solution that works on all major platforms and for all political events.

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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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Lessons from our first experiment with pop-up fact-checking

More than 380 people tried our pop-up fact-checking during the presidential debate.

By Bill Adair – October 20, 2016 | Print this article

Several hundred people who watched the presidential debate last night got a preview of what fact-checking will look like in the future.

More than 380 beta testers of our Reporters’ Lab browser extension saw fact-checks pop onto their screens in near-real time. The pop-ups were actually tweets from PolitiFact that said when statements from Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump were true, false or somewhere in between.

The pop-ups provided instant fact-checks from PolitiFact's Twitter feed.
The pop-ups provided instant fact-checks from PolitiFact’s Twitter feed.

The “FactPopUp” tool, built by Reporters’ Lab student Gautam Hathi, used the notification feature in the Chrome browser to display the PolitiFact tweets. The pop-ups appeared over a livestream of the debate. They were generated by Aaron Sharockman, a PolitiFact editor who was tweeting links to items that had been previously published.

Viewers saw 29 pop-ups with messages such as “Trump said Clinton would double taxes for Americans. False.”

We had modest expectations. We knew that the success of the test depended on Sharockman’s speed finding previous fact-checks and the time delay for the NBC News livestream we were using. It turned out that Sharockman was quite fast and the NBC livestream was slightly delayed, which made the pop-ups appear very quickly for most users.

I was so pleased at one point that I tweeted:

Still, there are many lessons and plenty of things we can improve:

Ease of installation. We tried to make it as easy as possible, but we were relying on Chrome’s notifications and Twitter for the pop-ups, so the sign up and installation was more complicated than we wanted. Users needed a Twitter account to activate the browser extension. Next time, we probably should build it as a standalone tool that doesn’t rely on Chrome or Twitter.

Type size. This was another challenge because of our reliance on Chrome notifications. We’d like to increase the size of the type (we had to rely on the standard font size) and the length of the messages (we were limited to about 80 characters). Building it as a standalone tool would allow us to make the type larger and the fact-checks slightly longer.

Location of the pop-ups. We discovered a difference in the location of the pop-ups for Mac and PC users. On the Mac version, they appeared in the upper right, which sometimes blocked Hillary Clinton’s face when NBC was showing a split screen. On the PC version of Chrome, they appeared in the lower right, which seemed less obtrusive.

Dwell time. We had tinkered with how long the pop-ups stayed on the screen. They need to stay long enough that people can read and digest them, but not too long. When the pop-up is in the lower right, you could have a a slightly longer dwell time because it doesn’t block anyone’s face.

Other functions. It’s worth exploring other functions such as the ability to save a fact-check to read later or immediately share it with others. Two of our testers suggested synchronizing the pop-ups with a video recording so users could go back to them later or see where they occurred in the debate.

Overall, we’re quite pleased with our pioneering effort at pop-up fact-checking. It shows great promise not just for future debates but also for live events such as major speeches. We’ll be making it available in GitHub for others to try and build on.

We’d love to hear your feedback. You can write to me at bill.adair@duke.edu.

 

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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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Reporters’ Lab, IFCN to host conference about automated fact-checking

The March 31-April 1 conference will showcase new research to use computational power to help fact-checkers.

By Alexios Mantzarlis – January 21, 2016 | Print this article

The Reporters’ Lab and Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network  will host “Tech & Check”, the first conference to explore the promise and challenges of automated fact-checking.

Tech & Check, to be held March 31-April 1 at Duke University, will bring together experts from academia, journalism and the tech industry. The conference will include:

  1. Demos and presentations of current research that automates fact-checking
  2. Discussions about the institutional challenges of expanding the automated work
  3. Discussions on new areas for exploration, such as live fact-checking and automated annotation.

Research in computational fact-checking has been underway for several years, but has picked up momentum with a flurry of new projects.

While automating fact-checking entirely is still the stuff of science fiction, parts of the fact-checking process such as gathering fact-checkable claims or matching them with articles already published seem ripe for automation. As natural language processing (NLP) and other artificial intelligence tools become more sophisticated, the potential applications for fact-checking will increase.

Indeed, around the world several projects are exploring ways to make fact-checking faster and smarter through the use of technology. For example, at Duke University, an NSF-funded project uses computational power to help fact-checkers verify common claims about the voting records of members of Congress. The University of Texas-Arlington has developed a tool called ClaimBuster that can analyze long transcripts of debates and suggest sentences that could be fact-checked. At Indiana University, researchers have experimented with a tool that uses Wikipedia and knowledge networks to verify simple statements. Fact-checkers in France, Argentina, the U.K. and Italy are also doing work in this field.

The conference is made possible with support by, among others, the Park Foundation. More details will be published in the coming weeks.

Researchers and journalists interested in attending the conference should contact the International Fact-Checking Network at factchecknet@poynter.org

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Reporters’ Lab projects featured at Computation + Journalism conference

The Reporters' Lab projects on structured journalism and fact-checking were featured at the annual conference.

By Julia Donheiser – October 6, 2015 | Print this article

Two projects from the Duke Reporters’ Lab were featured at the 2015 Computation + Journalism Symposium, which was held over the weekend at Columbia University in New York.

The two-day conference included presentations about Structured Stories NYC, an experiment that involved three Duke students covering events in New York, and a separate project that is exploring new ways to automate fact-checking.

Structured Stories, which uses a unique structured journalism approach to local news, was the topic of a presentation by David Caswell, a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Caswell explained Structured Stories in a presentation titled the Editorial Aspects of Reporting into Structured Narratives.

Structured Stories NYC is one of the boldest experiments of structured journalism because it dices the news into short events that can be reassembled in different ways by readers. The site is designed to put readers in charge by allowing them to adjust the depth of story coverage.

On the second day of the conference, Reporters’ Lab Director Bill Adair and Naeemul Hassan, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the University of Texas-Arlington, made a presentation that Adair said was “a call to arms” to automate fact-checking. It was based on a paper called The Quest to Automate Fact-Checking that they co-authored with Chengkai Li and Mark Tremayne of the University of Texas-Arlington, Jun Yang of Duke, James Hamilton of Stanford University and Cong Yu of Google.

At the conference, Naeemul Hassan explained how the UT-Arlington computer scientists used machine learning to determine the attributes of a factual claim.
At the conference, Naeemul Hassan explained how the UT-Arlington computer scientists used machine learning to determine the attributes of a factual claim.

Adair spoke about the need for more research to achieve the “holy grail” of fully automated, instant fact-checking. Hassan gave a presentation about ClaimBuster, a tool that analyzes text and predicts which sentences are factual claims that fact-checkers might want to examine.

The Reporters’ Lab is working with computer scientists and researchers from UT-Arlington, Stanford and Google on the multi-year project to explore how computational power can assist fact-checkers.

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