Truth Teller algorithm can factcheck politicians in real time

first_imgIf you paid any attention to the presidential election last year, it’s pretty obvious who the winner was over the course of several months of debating, campaigning, and just all around yammering, fighting, and arguing. The winner wasn’t Obama; he was just the result. The real victors were anyone who presented themselves as a “fact checker.”It was perhaps the most widely used phrase of the election, whether it was before a debate (“we’ll have fact checkers to catch all the lies that Romney is going to say”), during the debate (“Obama is doing well so far, but we’ll have to wait until the fact checkers weigh in”), or after the debate (“Before we say anything else, let’s go to the fact checkers”). If you were a “fact checker,” your words were treated with golden fanfare. No doubt everyone in America got sick and tired of those two words — much like you probably are right now after just reading it in a few sentences. Just try to think back to when it was uttered on TV every day for months.Even with all of that, fact-checking is a bit of a misnomer, because the people who are checking can bring in their own political biases, and slant the conversation or the facts to work in their favor. Or they can be selective about which facts they choose to check. In other words, there needs to be a truly independent, bias-free system that can analyze and respond in real time in order to give this whole process any sort of true value.That’s why the Washington Post has been given a Knight News Prototype grant to develop what may soon be the most robust, automated way to tell whether a politician is lying or not, even more so than a polygraph test (because politicians are so delusional they end up genuinely believing their lies).All of that is a long way of saying — say hello to Truth Teller. It’s a system of algorithms, speech-to-text technology, and internet content integration that can literally listen to a political speech, translate the spoken words into text, and then take relevant chunks of text and cross-check them with an existing database of pre-fact-checked articles.Right now it’s just in a prototype form, but for example, it can listen to an Obama campaign speech from last year, where the candidate said Republicans planned to cut financial aid to 10 million Americans by $1,000 each. The algorithms then cross reference that statement with an independent analysis, in this case by Politifact.com, and determine that statement is false. In fact, the Republicans never proposed that specific cut; it was just one option that would theoretically be on the tablet.Now of course, this is all based on very imperfect science and fuzzy “big data” formulas, but it is a start. The Washington Post admits there is still a lot of room to go, a lot of tweaking to be made, and a lot of user feedback that is needed. That’s why the prototype is open to all users. Maybe, just maybe, by 2016, politicians might actually start to be afraid of making false claims.last_img read more