Crowdsourced Fact Checking

from the seems-like-a-good-idea dept

We've pointed out in the past that people seem to really like it when the press actually fact checks, rather than simply acts as a stenographer to record what everyone has to say about an issue. But, of course, fact checking is time consuming and difficult work -- and, in the end, no professional fact checker is ever going to be able to fact check anything as effectively as a wider group of knowledgeable people. It's one of the reasons why we've always considered this site to be a discussion and community site, rather than a "journalism" site. We post our opinions based on what information is out there, and we fully expect an engaged audience to discuss things in the comments, adding additional details, or flat out correcting factual errors in the initial reports we relied on. It's part of the overall process.

And, now it looks like some news organizations are looking to test out a more formalized version of this. The Poynter Institute and FactCheck.org are testing out a new system that crowdsources fact checking via its new Truthsquad effort. The idea is pretty much what you'd expect. The idea is to tap into the wider wisdom of the crowd to see if they can help break down various claims from politicians to see whether or not they're truthful or not. This isn't a total free-for-all, of course. It's simply asking the community for input and evidence.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    justok (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 9:40pm

    And

    Who will fact check the fact-checkers?

     

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  2.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 9:46pm

    Re: And

    We check ourselves.

     

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  3.  
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    justok (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 9:47pm

    Re: And

    No one else here, so I'll talk to myself: what about sleeper "facts" planted ahead of time?

     

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  4.  
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    justok (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 9:55pm

    Re: Re: And

    didn't see you come in. I like the idea, of course. And I see many potential problems. That's a fact ;)

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 10:08pm

    Wow, instead of nostalgically lobbying for an archaic business model they are actually looking to the future. Great.

     

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  6.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 10:21pm

    Small question

    Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, but looking before leaping here.

    Isn't this what wikipedia is right now in the sense the facts are community driven. We've seen the hit and miss nature of it. You said its not a Free for all like Wikipedia but though still wondering if it doesn't degrade to one. So, i'm curious, what's in place to keep the community taking the wheel?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 10:29pm

    Re: Small question

    Er...just out of curiosity, how exactly is Wikipedia "hit-and-miss"?

    The degree of accuracy is, on average higher, than the Encyclopedia Britannica, and any major mistakes are corrected quickly.

    Say what want about the whole "notability" aspect, and the background arguments behind major articles, but Wikipedia manages to be far more accurate and far more accountable than many other information sources.

     

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  8.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 10:49pm

    Re: Re: Small question

    I don't hold its accountability in question what I hold in question is when a community edits something on a moments notice. It's been a while I suppose since I've used it but if there is a debate on some fact it changes back and forth between the two or more viewpoints.
    So if you take the page at face value you get one side and come back tomorrow and the facts have changed because of the communities' edits.
    Given the highly dynamic and volatile nature of politics it paints an ugly picture for the future of community driven fact checking. As justok said, who fact checks the fact checkers?
    Anybody know if If there a system in place for this, if any at all?

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 11:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Small question

    I know nothing about journalism, but I think it would be a world of difference. If a crowdsourced fact-checker calls something into question then it can get escalated for professional fact-checking. The crowd doesnt need to agree and build a consensus--the crowd just needs to raise red flags.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 11:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Small question

    Of course, the initiative in question seems to be operating nothing like what I supposed. It actually seems to be the opposite. Oh well.

     

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  11.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 1:45am

    Opportunity to CwF

    This seems like the kind of thing that newspapers and news organizations could use to connect with their readers and build community.

    The problem is that it would take some real commitment from news organizations, their reporters, and their editors. Too many news organizations don't want to be bothered with the contributions of non-professionals. Plus, sites like Fox News don't really want to be bothered by having to deal with the facts.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 2:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Small question

    Quad.

    Anywho...

    Or blow their whistles :-D

    tomato tomato :-P

     

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  13.  
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    abc gum, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 4:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Small question

    "If a crowdsourced fact-checker calls something into question then it can get escalated for professional fact-checking."

    Yeah, because as we all know ... the crowd contains no experts, only people pointing fingers.

    Just what is "professional fact-checking" anyway? Is it professional when it is done by a professional journalist?

    The crowd doesn't need to agree? What makes you think professional fact checkers would agree on anything?

     

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  14.  
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    Paddy Duke (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    On Leaving It To The Professionals

    Funny how people make the assumption that the public are just an uneducated mass. In fact the public (i.e. anyone who’s not a journalist) is comprised of millions of experts with specialist knowledge of their particular field, be it basketball, micro-biology, or Justin Bieber (Who?).

    And it’s very often the individuals with this kind of specialist knowledge that have the greatest interest in ensuring the media get their facts straight.

    I think it’ll be a good experiment to have a single point of contact for commentators who want to correct publications, and publications that want to verify their information. I hope it takes off.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    Re: On Leaving It To The Professionals

    Exactly, a PH.d. in microbiology should generally be given more credit when reporting and discussing on issues involving microbiology than a journalist any day. When the MSM figures this out then maybe I'll take them more seriously.

    But wait, that might actually require them to ... gulp ... hire experts in various fields to investigate and not just ignorant journalists who regurgitate what they hear without having any clue as to whether or not it even makes any sense.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: On Leaving It To The Professionals

    credibility *

     

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  17.  
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    Gary, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    What Fact Checking?

    The people weighing in (in addition to being brainwashed lefties) offer no facts, just opinion. The site is useless.

     

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  18.  
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    coldbrew, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 8:42am

    Re: What Fact Checking? Um...

    The irony of your comment has, no doubt, eluded you. Pot, meet kettle.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Small question

    The most volatile pages have been mostly locked down, and can only be edited with some semblance of community consensus.

    Anything that isn't controversial is subject to the standard 1RV rule, meaning you can't have back and forth edit wars.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Re: And

    Fact-checker fact-checkers of course!

     

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  21.  
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    Paddy Duke (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: On Leaving It To The Professionals

    I think you’ve missed my point. These independent experts and researchers have a vested interest in correcting misleading publications and already do so of their own volition.

    Making the process easier, by creating a central database of red flags, will hopefully lead to an increase in a practice that is already going on.

    Hiring the experts is absolutely the wrong thing to do. When you control someone’s funding and salary, you can also control the results their research. The less fact checkers we have under the thumb of Murdoch and comapny, the better.

     

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  22.  
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    Paddy Duke (profile), Aug 4th, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: On Leaving It To The Professionals

    *of their research

     

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  23.  
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    barney, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 3:35pm

    Wisdom of the crowd?

    When Germany initiated World War II, 'the crowd' of German citizenry supported him - well, until the war started to go badly.

    At that same time, German Jews were known to be an inferior race by the German 'crowd'.

    Prior to, during, and after the Civil War in the US, the white 'crowd' knew that black folk were mentally inferior, suitable only for physical labor.

    In Louisiana, the 'crowd' knew that Huey Long ranked just below God.

    Just relatively recent examples - history is full of 'em.

    And in all of the previous examples, some of the relevant crowd still believe. Want examples? Let's see, there's Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Brotherhood, skinheads, White Supremacists ...

    Considering that, could someone explain to me the *wisdom* of the crowd? History and my own experience lead me to doubt 'common wisdom'.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Wisdom of the crowd?

    You conveniently forgot to mention that those crowds thoughts were shaped by supposed "experts". Hitler and his propaganda machine were the ones responsible for the crowd's outrage against Jews for example. His opressive regime was also responsible for keeping dissidents in check, preventing people from questioning his orders.

    But despite that, not ALL members of the crowd are that stupid. Some fought (and died) to repel those evil groups you mentioned. Not all of the crowd gets tainted.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Wisdom of the crowd?

    Wow, you're right ...

    We need to eliminate elections and juries immediately or face the dire consequences.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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