Repustar, a fact-checking organization that crowdsources fact checks, is partnering with journalism and fact-checking outlets in the US to provide both fact checks to the public and verifiable claims to fact-checkers. It aims to rollout the service globally in 2023.
The remotely operated startup is also responsible for FactSparrow, a Twitter bot that users can tag under tweets with claims they would like to be checked, and The Gigafact Project, a fact-checking editorial platform. Repustar publishes the newsletter Matters of Fact and has partnered with organizations like The Associated Press, USAFacts and The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.
Its new tool, FactSparrow Tipline, is a variation on ordinary tip lines. It lets social media users who are curious (or skeptical) about claims they encounter to interface directly with partnering fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and Lead Stories, which can then either address the inquiries or instantly match them to existing fact checks or related news stories.
Users are prompted to paste a link to the source of the claim they want to check and to ask a specific, verifiable question about the claim, which is then sent to partnering organizations. After organizations fact-check the claim, the tip line rapidly alerts the user who submitted the question.
Check out how the tip line works in practice here.
“Everything that we have built is predicated on a theory that there are lots of people out there on social media who are looking for facts and trying to make sense of what they’re seeing. It’s just that oftentimes their voices are drowned out or they don’t know where to turn,” said Robyn Sundlee, vice president of engagement at Repustar. “We want to make it easier for people who are looking for facts — trying to evaluate credibility — to do so.”
Sundlee said that one of the hopes is that the tool builds rapport between fact-checkers and fact-seekers.
“Journalism outlets are recognizing that in order to reach readers today, simply publishing high-quality content is not enough,” said Chandran Sankaran, the founder and CEO of Repustar. “They need to be actively responsive to unsupported claims online and serve people in their moment of need.”
As fact-checkers globally experience increased harassment, FactSparrow Tipline also uses artificial intelligence-driven “intent detection” to filter out abusive or incendiary claim submissions to the tip line.
According to a Repustar press release, the tool also gives fact-checking organizations the ability to quickly distribute published fact checks to a list of interested readers.
Sankaran said that the tool helps organizations take a more active response to false claims by “inviting questions from the general public and providing a smart and immediate resource for them.”
Right now, Repustar says “half a dozen” fact-checkers are participating in preliminary versions of the tool, including PolitiFact, Lead Stories and Check Your Fact. Organizations interested in partnering with Repustar to implement their own tip line can visit the website, or contact Robyn Sundlee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It sets a foundation for credible news sources to build a richer relationship with their readers and meaningfully compete with the flood of baseless claims online,” Sankaran said.