The Internet Meets Big Brother
As a kid of the ’90s, if I sought the truth, I resorted to an encyclopedia. Kids today, however, often rely on online searches (i.e. Google or Yahoo). While adults may know to embrace online search with a solid dose of skepticism, will the younger generation follow suit? Perhaps they won’t need to because Dan Schultz, an MIT master’s graduate, is developing Truth Goggles, a new tool that highlights articles and answers the question “Is this true?” for you.
Still a work in progress, the tool currently pulls information from PolitiFact’s database of 5,500 fact-checked statements. Nieman Journalism Lab explains that the limited database is only one of Schultz’ challenges. He needs to develop the tool’s ability to detect paraphrased facts and somehow create a friendly user interface that doesn’t interrupt the reader.
I foresee even more issues.
Yes, the potential of an online fact checker (isn’t that what Wikipedia is for?) could save readers time from (literally going to Wikipedia) determining what is true and what is false. It could even become a new standard in online journalism, saving poor interns time fact-checking. But what about satire? Or the fact that not everything in life is fact or fiction; sometimes there’s an in-between. Not to mention, what once was seen as fact, can later be seen as fiction; take the hotly debated issue of Romney’s departure date from Bain. How will evolved facts, or facts in question, affect archived articles?
George Orwell imagined a world of burning old content and replacing it with new facts in his novel 1984 and while perhaps this may seem far-fetched, Truth Goggles could be seen as the Internet’s Big Brother.
I’ll settle for either the hope that skepticism will prevail or users will turn to Wikipedia so that we won’t need a nagging fact-checker disrupting the Internet.
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