Critically thinking about reporters’ claims with Truth Goggles

“Truth Goggles” is a project by MIT’s Dan Schultz that provides a fact-checking layer on top of news articles.

Andrew Phelps described Truth Goggles at Nieman Lab last year:

Schultz is building what he calls truth goggles — not actual magical eyewear, alas, but software that flags suspicious claims in news articles and helps readers determine their truthiness. It’s possible because of a novel arrangement: Schultz struck a deal with fact-checker PolitiFact for access to its private APIs.

Phelps recently revisited Schultz’s project, which is in the middle of a public user study. Phelps took the study and reported on his experience:

Sure, my internal skepticism detector usually starts beeping whenever I see quotation marks, but this exercise also forced me to consider claims in a reporter’s copy — e.g., “About 2.5 million young adults from age 19 to 25 attained health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act…” — the kind of information I’m more likely to assume is true.

After using the goggles for awhile, it was impossible to read articles without a skepticism bordering on
incredulity.

As I wrote in my thesis, academic work on critical thinking and journalism usually suggests that students use their skills on opinion pieces, not regular news stories. But my experience in my thesis suggested to me that those news stories often lack sufficient evidence for their claims, too.

So Phelps’s remark that Truth Goggles caused him to “consider claims in a reporter’s copy” won me over to the project. I took the Truth Goggles study myself this weekend, and I had a similar experience. Why not take the study yourself?

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