Fact-Checking and Research by the Wizard of Oz

Posted by Sam Mallikarjunan on May 16, 2015 11:27:52 AM

manual-research-toolIn the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions are confronted by a terrifying and magical apparition that appears to have supernatural powers.

I'm not sure if I still need to say **SPOILER ALERT** for a movie that's the better part of a hundred years old, but it turns out that -- rather than being a powerful and mystical force -- it's a guy standing behind a curtain controlling the whole thing by hand.

The team at Verytas.org has a vision of building a sophisticated set of tools that helps journalists and writers of all kinds easily and instantly find the research and facts they need for the topic they're writing about. We also have a vision of helping everyday people see factual context about the articles they see being shared in social media. You can read more about our long-term vision by clicking here.

We're already working on tools to automatically help you. You can download our version 1.0 Chrome extension that highlights fake news in your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds by clicking here. However, as we test new techniques and technologies to help us learn about solutions to your problems, we'll be following the example of the Wizard.

Before we invest the time and money (we're a small startup team, so we have limited amounts of both) in building fully functioning tools, we'll be doing some of the tasks that would normally be automated ourselves. This has the benefit of making sure that you get a very high quality response and it lets us see the steps that are most effective at solving your challenges so we can incorporate those into the eventual software.

One of the basic challenges we're tackling is your ability to know if an article you see on Facebook or Twitter is objectively true, objectively false, satire, or a mix of everything. Normally this would involve you clicking through to the article, doing the research yourself, and having the website make money from the ad impression even if your research or common sense shows you it's false once you're there and you don't believe it. With Verytas.org, we hope to make that process much easier for you.

To do this, all you have to do is tag the Verytas.org Facebook Page in an article you're posting or in comment on an article posted by someone else (read how that works by clicking here or click here to watch a video of how to tag Verytas.org). We'll get a notification that you've tagged us and see the link. We will do the research for you (so you don't have to spend the time) and comment back to you with the information we have (true, false, satire, or mixed) and a link to a page with the data we've collected on that article. If it's an article that's trying to make money by being intentionally misleading, we can tell you and anyone else that tags us so that they only get the ad revenue from our one visit to their site. If it's not intentionally misleading, we'll tell you that too and you can click through to read it (great sites need all the ad impression revenue they can get to keep creating great content). Of course, you can click through regardless of what we tell you -- we're here to augment your personal diligence as an informed consumer of media, not replace it or censor what content you read.

This process works the same on Twitter: Just mention us by including @VerytasOrg in your tweet and we'll see the link in your tweet, do the research for you, and tweet you back the information we have on that article. You can read how @mentions work on Twitter by clicking here.

Nice and easy!

The Wizard of Oz part comes from the fact that we'll be doing this manually in the beginning to make sure that we get you the best information we have on that article as quickly as possible. We'll do our best to work as quickly and precisely as a hyper-intelligent piece of software, but we'll be a bit slower in the beginning. Bear with us while we continue building an awesome and automated tool that helps make your web a better place!

Want to make sure you get the latest information about the new Verytas tools? Click below to apply for our special beta program!

Click here to register for our future Betas

Topics: Startups

Verytas is a tool that lets everyday people easily fact-check the content they see on social and news media sites like a pro.

Verytas pulls from commonly used professional sources as well as human-generated citations or refutations and automagically overlays the information in real-time on your normal browsing experience.

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