“FactStream”

FactStream

What we learned during our experiment with live fact-checking

We got some nice feedback and helpful suggestions about FactStream, our new app

By Bill Adair – February 1, 2018 | Print this article

Except for the moment when we almost published an article about comedian Kevin Hart’s plans for his wedding anniversary, the first test of FactStream, our live fact-checking app, went remarkably smoothly.

FactStream is the first in a series of apps we’re building as part of our Tech & Check Cooperative. We conducted a beta test during Tuesday’s State of the Union address that provided instant analysis from FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker.

Overall, the app functioned quite well. Our users got 32 fact-checks during the speech and the Democratic response. Some were links to previously published checks while others were “quick takes” that briefly explained the relative accuracy of Trump’s claim.

FactStreamWhen President Trump said “we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history,” users got nearly instant assessments from FactCheck and PolitiFact.

“It is not the biggest tax cut,” said the quick take from FactCheck.org. “It is the 8th largest cut since 1918 as a percentage of gross domestic product and the 4th largest in inflation-adjusted dollars.”

PolitiFact’s post showed a “False” Truth-O-Meter and linked to an October fact-check of a nearly identical claim by Trump. Users of the app could click through to read the October check.

Many of the checks appeared on FactStream seconds after Trump made a statement. That was possible because fact-checkers had an advance copy of the speech and could compose their checks ahead of time.

We had two technical glitches – and unfortunately both affected Glenn. One was a mismatch of the URLs for published Washington Post fact-checks that were in our database, which made it difficult for him to post links to his previous work. We understand the problem and will fix it.

The other glitch was bizarre. Last year we had a hiccup in our Share the Facts database that affected only a handful of our fact-checks. But during Tuesday’s speech we happened to hit one when Glenn got an inadvertent match with an article from the Hollywood rumor site Gossip Cop, another Share the Facts partner. So when he entered the correct URL for his own article about Trump’s tax cut, a fact-check showed up on his screen that said “Kevin Hart and Eniko Parrish’s anniversary plans were made up to exploit the rumors he cheated.”

Oops!

Fortunately Glenn noticed the problem and didn’t publish. (Needless to say, we’re fixing that bug, too.)

FactStreamThis version of FactStream is the first of several we’ll be building for mobile devices and televisions. This one relies on the fact-checkers to listen for claims and then write short updates or post links to previous work. We plan to develop future versions that will be automated with voice detection and high-speed matching to previous checks.

We had about 3,100 people open FactStream over the course of the evening. At the high point we had 1,035 concurrently connected users.

Our team had finished our bug testing and submitted a final version to Apple less than 48 hours before the speech, so we were nervous about the possibility of big crashes. But we watched our dashboard, which monitored the app like a patient in the ICU, and saw that it performed well.

Our goal for our State of the Union test was simple. We wanted to let fact-checkers compose their own checks and see how users liked the app. We invited users to fill out a short form or email us with their feedback.

The response was quite positive. “I loved it — it was timely in getting ‘facts’ out, easy to use, and informative!” Also: “I loved FactStream! I was impressed by how many fact-checks appeared and that all of them were relevant.”

We also got some helpful complaints and suggestions:

Was the app powered by people or an algorithm? We didn’t tell our users who was choosing the claims and writing the “quick takes,” so some people mistakenly thought it was fully automated. We’ll probably add an “About” page in the next version.

More detail for Quick Takes. Users liked when fact-checkers displayed a rating or conclusion on our main “stream” page, which happened when they had a link to a previous article. But when the fact-checkers chose instead to write a quick take, we showed nothing on the stream page except the quote being checked. Several people said they’d like some indication about whether the statement was true, false or somewhere in between. So we’ll explore putting a short headline or some other signal about what the quick take says.

Better notifications. Several users said they would like the option of getting notifications of new fact-checks when they weren’t using the app or had navigated to a different app or website. We’re going to explore how we might do that, recognizing that some people may not want 32 notifications for a single speech.

An indication the app is still live. There were lulls in the speech when there were no factual claims, so the fact-checkers didn’t have anything new to put on the app. But that left some users wondering if the app was still working. We’ll explore ways we can indicate that the app is functioning properly.

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SpaceX

What to expect tonight from FactStream, our live fact-checking app

It’s an early step toward automated fact-checking. What could go wrong?

By Bill Adair – January 30, 2018 | Print this article

Tonight we’re conducting a big test of automated fact-checking. Users around the world will be able to get live fact-checks from the Washington Post, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org on our new FactStream app.

It’s an ambitious experiment that was assembled with unusual speed. Our team – lead developer Christopher Guess, project manager Erica Ryan and the designers from the Durham firm Registered Creative – built the app in just three months. We were still testing the app for bugs as recently as Sunday night (we found a couple and have fixed them!).

FactStream, part of the Duke Tech & Check Cooperative, is our name for apps that provide live fact-checking. This first version will rely on the fact-checkers to identify claims and then push out notifications. Future versions will be more automated.

We’re calling tonight’s effort a beta test because it will be the first time we’ve used the app for a live event. We’ve tested it thoroughly over the past month, but it’s possible (likely?) we could have some glitches. Some things that might happen:

  • President Trump might make only a few factual claims in the speech. That could mean you see relatively few fact-checks.
  • Technical problems with the app. We’ve spent many hours debugging the app, fixing problems that ranged from a scrolling glitch on the iPhone SE to a problem we called “the sleepy bug” that caused the app to stop refreshing. We think we’ve fixed them all. But we can’t be sure.
  • Time zone problems. If you set an alert for tonight’s speech before we fixed a time zone bug this morning, you got a notification at 3 p.m. Eastern time today that said “2018 State of the Union Address will begin in fifteen minutes.” Um, no, it’s at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight. But we believe we’ve fixed the bug!

(I’m writing this at the suggestion of Reporters’ Lab co-director Mark Stencel, who notes that Elon Musk has highlighted video of his rockets exploding to make the point that tests can fail.)

The future of fact-checking is here. Our goal tonight is to test the app and explore the future of automated journalism. We’re excited to try – even if we encounter a few problems along the way.

I hope you’ll try the app and let us know what you think. You can email us at team@sharethefacts.org or use this feedback form.

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FactStream

Want to help us test our fact-checking app during the State of the Union?

The FactStream app provides live fact-checking during political events. We’d like your help testing it during the speech.

By Rebecca Iannucci – January 26, 2018 | Print this article

The Duke Reporters’ Lab is seeking beta testers for FactStream, our new second-screen app that will provide live fact-checking during political events.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Reporters’ Lab will partner with PolitiFact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org, which will provide FactStream users with live fact-checking of President Trump’s State of the Union address.

FactStreamThroughout the speech, FactStream users will see pop-ups on their screen, alerting them to previously published fact-checks or real-time analyses of President Trump’s claims. By pressing on a pop-up, users can read the full text of a fact-check, share the fact-check on various social media platforms or simply receive additional context about Trump’s statements.

FactStream is a product of the Duke Tech & Check Cooperative, a $1.2 million effort that uses automation to help fact-checkers do their work and broaden their audience. Launched in September 2017, Tech & Check also serves as a hub to connect journalists, researchers and computer scientists who are doing similar work.

The first iteration of FactStream is a manual app that requires the work of human fact-checkers behind the scenes. It is an important first step toward the “holy grail” of fact-checking — automated detection of a claim that is instantly matched to a published fact-check.

If you are an iPhone or iPad user and would like to test FactStream during the State of the Union, here’s how:

(1) Download FactStream from the App Store.

(2) Open and use the app during President Trump’s speech (Jan. 30 at 9 p.m. ET), making sure to test the app’s various screens and shared fact-checks.

(3) After the speech is over, send us feedback about the app with this Google Form.

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