There’s another fact-checking site in the Web universe now, and this one, much like this summer’s WikiFactCheck, sets to involve the general public in the fact checks by crowdsourcing. This one – TruthSquad – adds what it calls a “game” element and combines work by professional researchers and members of the general public.
Fabrice Florin, executive director and founder of NewsTrust wrote for PBS MediaShift Nov. 16, explaining how Newstrust’s new service TruthSquad works and what the group learned from its “pilot” fact check in August. Florin described the website as “a community fact-checking service that helps people verify the news online, with professional guidance.”
TruthSquad also has run weekly fact-checks, Florin noted.
iMediaEthics asked Florin by email what Truthsquad means by “pilot.” He explained that “We call it a pilot when we work actively with external partners like MediaBugs and Regret the Error.” He also told us that the second pilot will end in January.
Involving the public in fact checks is a recent twist to traditional fact-checking organizations, Florin noted. “Professional fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and FactCheck.org have taken up the charge to verify the claims of politicians, pundits and newsmakers, and they provide a great service to the public. But I believe there’s also a role for the average person in the fact-checking process.”
Florin highlighted “key takeaways” from August’s fact check program in his PBS MediaShift column.
- “A game-like experience makes fact-checking more engaging.
- “A professional-amateur (pro-am) collaboration delivers reliable results and a civil conversation.
- “Crowd contributions are limited, requiring editorial oversight and better rewards.
- “Community fact-checking fills a gap between traditional journalism and social media.”
Florin explained that NewsTrust concluded that the game element to the fact-check led to a “high level of engagement.”
(Newstrust, TruthSquad’s parent organization, describes itself as a “nonprofit news service” which promotes “good journalism, news literacy and civic engagement.” )
Users guess “True” or “False” on quoted statements and are prompted to submit a link, comment or note with their vote.
“After their first guess, people are more likely to participate as researchers, because their curiosity has been piqued and they want to know the answer,” he wrote.
By mixing professionals and amateurs, Florin said TruthSquad found “multiple checks and balances” and sharing of information, Florin wrote.
However, Florin explained disappointment with the balance of work. While he reported “high levels of participation,” he noted that most of the “hard word to research factual evidence” was completed by staff – not the public.
“This project turned out to be more labor-intensive than we thought, and a daily fact-checking service will require a dedicated editorial team to guarantee reliable results,” he wrote.
In order to participate in fact checking on Truth Squad, you do have to log in or sign up for an account, although you can log in via Facebook.
Some of TruthSquad’s currently available fact-check quotes include quotes by Rachel Maddow and Eric Bolling. Maddow’s Nov. 11 comment that Fox News “never criticized George W. Bush for anything” is up for fact checking here.
iMediaEthics also wrote to Florin asking what makes TruthSquad different from WikiFactCheck, another community-involved effort to fact check the media. (See StinkyJournalism’s article on WikiFactCheck earlier this summer here.)
Florin responded via e-mail that “our objectives are similar, but our methods are a bit different” than their parent website, NewsTrust. Specifically Florin stated that TruthSquad provides “easy community participation,” and e-mails “all participnts when we publish our verdict, to seek feedback,” among other points.
However, Florin noted that “we would like to develop an alliance of fact-checking sites like ours, so we can be stronger together than in isolation.” He told us that he intends to ask WikiFactCheck’s Andrew Lih to see if he would be interested in collaborating.
Florin also encouraged iMediaEthics to participate. iMediaEthics intends to try both TruthSquad and MediaBugs. We will report later with the results.