Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Washington Post launches its 'Truth Teller' app; will eventually fact check speeches in near real-time

The Washington Post launched a lie detector of sorts on Tuesday, although they positioned it 180 degrees in the opposite direction. In other words, the Post said on Tuesday, this is a "Truth Teller" app.

The app is still in prototype mode. It's not even in beta mode, as it can only be used on canned content. On the prototype page, users can play a series of videos, with the speech also displayed below the video in transcript form, with the part of the speech the video player is showing highlighted.

Portions of the text are then compared to a database of factual data, and users can click through the Truth Teller to access the specific sources of these facts. Although the prototype shows this fact-checking process with pre-recorded video relating to the tax reform debate, the Post's plan is to make the Truth Teller available for use with live video and audio within a couple of weeks. In its fully fleshed out form, the reader could be used in "near real time."

The Washington Post's executive producer for digital news, Cory Haik, said that although the application is "not totally there to just set it up and let it live stream, the bones have been built."

In a press release from the James L. Knight Foundation, which in 2012 awarded the Post a $50,000 grant for the app from the Knight Foundation's Prototype Fund, Haik said:
When our politics editor Steven Ginsberg heard a politician give a stump speech filled with inaccurate statements, he wondered if there could ever be a way to instantly verify what a politician says. Live fact-checking can provide incredible insight to journalists and audiences alike, and we are excited to start the process of creating something as unique and valuable as Truth Teller.
Politics editor Ginsberg also chimed in on the Truth Teller app, saying:
This first iteration of Truth Teller will shed light on an important, timely discussion that is often filled with political rhetoric. When Truth Teller evolves to the product we’ve envisioned, it will be a tool that addresses broad issues instantly, complementing the in-depth nature of The Post’s Fact Checker blog.
In order to create the Truth Teller, the Post had to combine several technologies, using audio and video extraction along with a speech-to-text technology to search databases of facts and fact checks.

To introduce the prototype, the Washington Post produced the embedded video.

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