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A fact-checking software for online sources

By Lynnemore van Ommen

Nowadays journalists have to perform under great time pressure online, they feel the need to continually update the news website. However, the problem is that when reporting at speed, there is little time to factual verify information. How would it sound if I told you that there is something which is not only preventing journalists from making factual mistakes but is also saving journalists precious time?

Browse with insight

Page Facts came up with the idea of a software that enables journalists to quickly estimate on the credibility of online sources. The software will provide relevant background information on an article in a clear scheme. Page Facts aspires to generate transparency and clarity on the internet and to help with finding factual information.

Video explaining the objectives of Page Facts (go to settings for subtitles).

Although the software is not yet available they already have won two awards for their innovative idea. They were one if the tree winners of The Challenge 2015 (a Dutch price and funding for innovative start-up ideas within journalism) followed by the Tegel Toekomst Prijs (Tile Future Price, handed out to the final winner of the Challenge). Regarding to the jury Page Facts resides “in the heart of what presently lives online” and it potentially offers opportunities to add value.

The start

Who are the brains behind this promising software? It all started with KaiChu Wu, a master student in design at the Technical University of Eindhoven, who followed the news on the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. He was shocked by the number of factual mistakes (concerning Fukushima) he came across online. He started a project called Fakeshima which filtered out all nonsensical information on the disaster. Luuk Ex, a former master student in journalism at the University of Amsterdam, discovered the project and was immediately interested since he, as a journalist, is the potential target group.

KaiChu Wu and Luuk Ex
Luuk Ex and MengHsun Wu (co-designer)  – Tegel Toekomst Prijs.

Present

Page Facts is still immersed in research to optimize the software. They are interviewing journalists so they can acquire more understanding about the problems and methods regarding verification. Deriving form these interviews it appears for example that journalists always start at Google when searching information. Besides, when searching for an article they always check: dates, latest updates, and the background of authors and platforms (i.e. to find original sources). These indicators will be applied as criteria for articles that will be verified by the software.

To get an idea of how the software will function you can find a prototype on the website. Via the split screen option, you are able to get an idea on the features of the software (i.e. which information you are able to see).

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Screenshots of the Page Facts prototype: Split Screens.

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Screenshots of the Page Facts prototype: Profiles.

Is it new?

To my knowledge there is not yet a software out there that (altogether) is comparable to Page Facts. However, distinct elements of the software do exist such as a tool to split screens or a software that determines meta-data. The aim of Page Facts is, to bring these distinct elements together into one comprehensive software.

Future

A likely obstacle for Page Facts to overcome, is that journalists pursue established practices and it is hard to cut-across these habits. That will need some time.

Before the software is available, the design needs to be considered thoroughly (step by step) (i.e. the user interface needs to be specified). Since they have a small budget they are allocated to building the software in a limited amount of time. The idea is to design the software in separate parts, starting with the most useful elements (such as profiling sources). By means of these small steps, eventually they hope to achieve the overall objective.