by Mike Masnick

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.

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  • identicon
    ryan, 4 Oct 2006 @ 2:27am

    who knows, something like this might take off

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2006 @ 4:12am

    who care, it seem all rigged now

    there are US politicians in place, making up their own rules, taking authority into their own hands, and ignoring any facts (such as Supreme cort decisions stating that their assumed powers can't happen) that they wish to ignore.

    Think a tiny little google check will scare these guys? nah.

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

  • identicon
    Just One Guy, 4 Oct 2006 @ 4:54am

    I would rather have a system that does fact-checking and no one cares, rather than no system and no fact-checking.

    After all, if electors have the system and the facts and choose to ignore them, it's their fault, and not the unavoidable condition of the world and the society.

    After all, I strongly believe that the only unquestionable advantage of democracy is that it is no one else's fault but the electors themselves, if a moron ends up being in charge.

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

  • identicon
    Fuzzy Truth, 4 Oct 2006 @ 4:59am

    What is the truth?

    I'm having a hard time envisioning software that could say, "Yeah, he said the truth," or "No, he's lying." Maybe a politician is citing a study, but only citing the statistics he wants to and ignoring others that run counter to his point.

    I'm not sure some software is going to say, "Yeah, I guess he's telling the truth, but only part of it. Here's the other part." It could do something such as point to a study that a politician refers to, however.

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

  • identicon
    SenseiLoco, 4 Oct 2006 @ 5:54am

    There's always the track record...

    You can always check what your local politician has voted for or against. That's pretty hard to fake...
    Not exactly the same thing...but another way to keep tabs.

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

    • identicon
      E, 4 Oct 2006 @ 10:21am

      Re: There's always the track record...

      Imagine a system where you are quized on your views and perhaps asked a few questions as to which issues are more important vs other issues....

      Then it would create a weighted voting profile for how you would have voted if you were a congressman.

      Then it would search the voting records and show you the best-fit match for who votes like you would have.

      Figuring out who you actually COULD vote for would be a harder problem, cause you dont likely live in the area where you can vote for your best match.
      Or there is only 1 or 2 folks actually running for that spot.

      This is a good example of applying useful technology to an important, although extremely low-frequency and low-volume decision.

      But it sounds so much better than using SINGLE issues to vote, for example: abortion, gay rights, war in iraq, or casino gambling.

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

  • identicon
    Mawkus, 4 Oct 2006 @ 5:58am

    And another thing...

    This would be nice, but it would be even more beneficial just to have a place for people to research the debated issues. Wiki does this pretty well, but if it were organized into a political website that placed politicians on either side of an issue and explained points of view, more people would be able to make informed decisions, and more people would vote.

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

  • identicon
    Svetaketu, 4 Oct 2006 @ 6:26am

    And another website

    I've been thinking lately about starting a website for monitoring and contacting congresspersons and elected officials. It would list all issues up for vote, how the constituents(sp) who contacted their congresspersons stood compared with how the officials actually voted. Has this already been done?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2006 @ 6:48am

    i don't see a wiki working for political checking. all that would happen is the site would get bashed from the opposing side, while the "good" side tries to defend their candidate. all that would happen is he's good/he's bad blah blah balh.

    if there was a way to keep those in check, mainly having a few people on each side maintaining the site, it'd work.

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

  • identicon
    Matt Bennett, 4 Oct 2006 @ 6:57am

    You have to have it set up as buuzer and flashing light, during debates, speeches, and newscasts. Everytime a politician opens his mouth, the thing just screcches "bullshit!" so loud you can't even really hear him.

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

  • identicon
    Obvious Man, 4 Oct 2006 @ 7:10am

    Um, it'd better be really good and unbiased...

    Because you KNOW how politicians are ... some won't sign off on a bill because it doesn't have an amendment they promised to their voters, and others won't sign off on it because it looks like sheer folly, even though the intention on both sides is very honest and forthright - in this case, Some fucks decided to call me up the other day, and asked if they could speak to the "youngest male voter in the household" - um, duh - that was me ... and asked me who I'd vote for, if I knew all the individuals, ( and one of 'em just got into the headlines as a KKK sympathizer ... The KKK! This isn't pre 1970, this is right now! What kind of moron supports the KKK in this day and age?!) And they expected me to change my vote to that KKK idiot simply because they were saying how my favorite (she's for wind power and solar power!) voted against so many "good" measures - it's so much bullshit, man. There was also news in the paper of how the phone lines belonging to that party's volunteer base were cut during the last round of primaries and all sorts of vandalism upon the property of known party members.
    What does this have to do with the facts? Politics is more complex than support of one particular bill or another, and just a simple search for fact-finding on politicians won't be enough. Not to mention we're at a new level of interaction where we have to be careful because some idiots are so against alternate solutions that they would rather attack people who don't conform to the hive mind that nearly destroyed us through the Reagan era, the thousand points of light, the trickle-down economics, the holes in the Ozone that "some party which shall go unnamed" tried to deny until there was too much evidence, and then took partial credit for joining the fight to protect the damn thing worldwide, and went ahead and did the same damn dumb thing with cigarrette smoking, and tried to attempt that same shit with global warming! What the fuck does it take to realize that these guys will help America slit its throat and will go to their deathbeds claiming that it's their right? DOES ANYONE else SEE A PROBLEM WITH THE IDEA OF USING PEOPLE as RESOURCES?! I DON'T WANT TO SEE MY PRESIDENT SURROUNDED ONLY BY PEOPLE WHO WOULD BE WILLING TO DIE FOR HIM especially if I don't think he deserves it ... how the fuck can you place that much worth in a figurehead anyway?! How can you equate two separate streams of life and snuff one out because it's a part of "the job description?!" A lot of terrorism these days stems from unfair "free" trade practices, and not from "uncivilized 'evil' haters of freedom and democracy" as the spin doctors will tell you.
    And if Google decides to call me back on my résumé submission, I'd love to join that project ... :-D

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

  • identicon
    Meoip, 4 Oct 2006 @ 7:24am


    They only influence this would have on politics is if one candidate was honest, he would stand out in this realm and be on a different field than his or her opponent.
    Politics works because everyone lies. If we both lie then our honesty isn’t debated because in a comparison we are on the same level. It’s like MPG in cars, everyone knows the figures aren’t accurate but because the same standards are used for each car the lie isn’t a huge issue. I know your 32mpg close to my 31 mpg both of which are 4 mpgs off. They all lie in concert with each other so it works out.

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

  • identicon
    MockingBirdtheWizard, 4 Oct 2006 @ 7:29am

    the kind of facts I want to see

    I'm less concerned (still concerned though) with the lies that politicians spew.
    the website IW ould like to see is this;
    allow me to look up, by politician (And compare against another or two) their stances on things..
    I want to see that in jan 14, 1980 X for things that helped illegal immigration. and in aug 1, 1984 X was for stopping ilegal immigration, in 1990 X voted against a bill lto stem illegal immigration, etc.
    sort it by general braod topics. illegal immigration, taxes (cuts or increases), and certain other things. what are the top 10 issues? let's work with those.
    so, I'll get to see who knows what they want, who flip flops, etc. the fact checking can get these things right into "jan 1 X gave a speech for cutting taxes. jan 15 X voted for a tax increase....
    aside from the issue stability of a candidate, their actual voting record would help greatly in cutting through their lies to see how they influence the country.
    if I had a bunch of fact checkers I'd run the damn site myself.
    well, that's my two fitty.

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

  • identicon, 4 Oct 2006 @ 8:45am

    The Real Truths

    As today's politics are not about the issues and which way one or many politicians have voted, more so what is thier special interest in getting into office.

    A look at history reveals the greatest volunteer effort in our country's history, The Constitution. Our forefathers knew that if our government was not in the best interest Of The People, that our government would not work. We live in a time were self serving needs are acceptable and the interest Of The People is placed at the bottom of the pecking order.

    Simply put the site needs to dig deep into the special interest of the candidates and not thier public position, but their self serving dealings first. I would think it could parallel the 6 degrees of seperation to identify where a politician will vote. addresses this poor political work and the detriment that self serving politics brings on the people.

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

  • identicon
    Michael Castelluccio, 4 Oct 2006 @ 8:54am

    Google fact checker

    Perhaps a more interesting focus for the fact checker would be on media. The press, televison, and the talking heads endlessly bloviating on radio and online. Keep a running score, like eBay's customer rating system.

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

  • identicon
    Hardy Harhar, 4 Oct 2006 @ 9:28am

    Google China?

    I wonder if they'll put this on their Chinese portal.

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

  • identicon
    Norman Benjamin, 4 Oct 2006 @ 11:05am

    This is just nuts

    Who cares?
    What can we do very very soon?..well let's think.

    1. Checking for truth in satements (well. easy)
    2. Using articles, peoples reaction on them as well as sociological facts to automatically pretext and design policy in order to win elections. (E commented on that, and it is actually far easier and more subversive, funny that of the majority most dont have a clue on such technology, meaning: democratic elections down to who is the greater math geek)
    3. Imagine you have a company that produces tons of signals to market competitors. The first positive thnig was that noone would really know what was going on, since signals cancelled each other out. Now think on. You have one company and many competitors and it produces signals in a way not obvious, but obvious to each competitor in a certain way so you can make competitors act in favour of your action, by making them fight each other. Now imagine this is what politicians can do: use this technology in order to use systematic lying and signalling so that everyone is able this man does exactly what one wants.
    Great isn't it?
    Looking at Google, they seem to be very decent in talking about future perspectives of their technology. I doubt they are not aware of what they are doing.

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

  • identicon
    Jossle, 4 Oct 2006 @ 11:12am

    Fact checking and bias

    Half the facts are clouded in bias, just as you suggested. A tool is rearing it's ugly head in a few days that should get to the root of the latter.

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

  • identicon
    Lay Person, 4 Oct 2006 @ 12:50pm

    It doesn't take much

    It doesn't take much to be thrown off the stairs up to the presidency.

    As I recall a presidential candidate didn't make the cut because his laugh sounded funny.

    So it seems to me it's not all about substance anyway. We, as Americans, and more importantly as voters hardly ever really look too deeply into the facts before voting. We take our rights for granted and as a result we fail to fulfill our true legacy set forth by our founding fathers. We literally spat in their faces; the state of our government is a testament to that fact.

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

  • identicon
    Awfki, 4 Oct 2006 @ 12:54pm

    No one's paying attention now but..

    ...wait till the boomers die off and get replaced by voters who grew up with the Internet and know how to use it.

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

  • identicon
    Obvious Man, 5 Oct 2006 @ 10:08am

    For the sake of COMMON-FUCKING-SENSE,
    When someone tells you that Politician X voted on bill Y and didn't ovte on bill Z, they're not telling you ABOUT THE POLITICS, they're telling you about the end result, which is much like saying "Life is a terminal illness ... you die from it one day ..." When Rep John-Mary-Sue decides not to vote in favor of a bill that may lower taxes, it may easily be because that bill takes funding away from a very successful program that keeps little childern from being raped by sex offenders, and when he decides on voting FOR a bill that adds taxes, it may also be because it adds funding to public schools. And yet, just as in that bitch-ass "survey" I got from the "OTHER" party, they just talked about how my favorite candidate voted for increased tax and against tax cuts. Once again, I call bullshit ... a search engine of this magnitude MUST be carefully constructed and provide information on WHY they did what they did - For instance there was a measure in Arizona to make it even a bigger crime to illegally smuggle immigrants in, and to harbor them, and everyone thought it was a good idea, until it was passed into law and someone showed that the fine print meant that even going so far as to take an illegal immigrant to a hospital or offering them food & water is a punishable offense. Not such a good idea anymore.

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

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