Google May Do Real-Time Politician Fact Checking, But Will Anyone Care?
from the doubtful dept
Google boss Eric Schmidt is talking about new ways that the internet may change politics, beyond its use as another avenue for fund raising or for rallying the donors and the voters. He suggests that one day soon Google or another internet service will offer a real-time fact checker for political statements, or, as he describes it, a “truth predictor,” which he then believes will influence elections. Of course, that actually depends on whether or not anyone really cares about fact checking. During the last major election, there were plenty of blogs and sites set up to do near real-time fact checking on all of the bogus statements (and, man, were there a lot of them) that all of the major candidates said. The results, though, were pretty predictable. First, there were so many half-truths, rewriting of history and creative interpretations that those who paid attention simply learned that no one was being particularly honest most of the time. It certainly did little to influence viewpoints in one direction or the other, since the only conclusion you could reach was that all politicians treat facts and truth as mere guidelines, not to get in the way of the point they were trying to make. The second, bigger, issue was that the strongly partisan (“my party can do no wrong”) crowd would immediately inflate the intellectual dishonesties of the other side, while explaining away those statements on their own side. In other words, it didn’t matter. Real-time fact checking is nice to have — and, perhaps it would be useful if those asking questions of the politicians could get an instant fact check for the sake of follow up questions (assuming anyone actually asked tough follow up questions), but it hardly seems likely to have that big an impact in a world where partisan rhetoric is all about winning rather than what’s actually for the best and “spin” is more important than accountability.