“The first of these tools has emerged in the political sphere, and builds upon work done by Adair and colleagues at Politifact. The organisation employs journalists to scrutinise around 35 political statements a week, awarding each a "Truth-O-Meter" rating from "true" to "pants on fire". Their reasoning is published, as well as links to sources. For instance, PolitiFact has found that, of 400 statements made by Barack Obama, just over 1 in 4 were "mostly false" or worse. For Mitt Romney, Obama's challenger in the presidential election this November, the figure was over 40 per cent. Between them, the pair have earned 21 "pants on fire" verdicts.
PolitiFact has made waves - it won a 2009 Pulitzer prize and has inspired similar groups in Europe - but its "pants on fire" determinations do no good if they are confined to its website. For a fact-check to change a belief, it needs to be available at the moment the information is consumed. And that is where the new tools come in.
Another initiative, Fact Spreaders, aims to integrate PolitiFact's checks into Twitter, as well as those performed by FactCheck, a similar US organisation. It begins with software, due to launch later this year, that looks at whether tweets contain a URL linking to information that checkers have flagged as problematic. The team is also experimenting with artificial intelligence that scrutinises the content of tweets, says co-founder Paul Resnick, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Then volunteers post a Twitter response to the tweet, containing a link to the fact-check. "We need to have facts spread as far as rumour spreads," says Resnick”
New Scientist (sub required)