Angie Holan, the editor of PolitiFact, encapsulated the zeitgeist aptly in the headline of her recent article "Fact-checking 2016: This is gonna be messy." (PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by Poynter).
The country's leading fact-checking operations have responded to this campaign season by upping their collaboration efforts under the aegis of the Duke Reporters' Lab. First came a joint project to fact-check campaign TV ads, in partnership with the Internet Archive's Political TV Ad Archive.
Factcheck.org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post are now collaborating by jointly piloting Share the Facts, a widget developed by the Duke Reporters' Lab and Alphabet's technology incubator Jigsaw (formerly known as Google Ideas).
Share the Facts structures a fact check's key elements — the claim, its origin and the rating — in a box like the one below.
The box can be embedded in articles and blog posts in a way that gives more prominence to the fact check than a hyperlink, in the same way that embedding a tweet or a video makes it more central to a story. It can also be easily shared on social media.
Bill Adair, director of the Duke Reporters' Lab, says he thinks the tool's strength is that "it presents many different ways to make fact checks available" and will ultimately "make fact-checking more readily accessible to everyone."
The Duke Reporters' Lab has described the initial vision for the widget in broad terms — to make fact-checking more widely shareable.
Nonetheless, it is possible to see how structuring fact checks in this form could open up further opportunities. As more and more fact checks get tagged via Share the Facts, for example, the widget could ultimately produce a single searchable archive of fact checks from all fact-checkers on a specific topic, time frame or candidate. Querying this archive or overlaying it with other data could be of interest to both journalists and political scientists.
The widget will be made available to other fact-checkers in the U.S. and around the world this summer.