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Piling on Jim’s recent post about Web sites pushing for transparency, my buddy Howard just tweeted about a new site called Speechology — “User-powered analysis of political debates, speeches and campaign ads.” The developers got a minigrant from Sunlight Foundation in order to build a site that would archive political speeches/advertisements etc so that the public could then crowdsource (aka collaboratively fact-check) and discuss them. Nicely done!
While watching the countless debates of the 2007-2008 primary season, we noticed a trend: Moderator asks politician a question, politician dodges the question and instead uses the time to rehash his/her platform, moderator thanks politician and moves on to next question. In other cases, the candidates on stage would go back and forth, unequivocally contradicting one another on points of fact. The moderator–a journalist–simply moved on, leaving voters in the dark as to the truth.
The ads on television were no different: quotes taken out of context, completely unchecked accusations, citations in miniscule type…All of these political videos left us wondering who was right, and who was lying.
We created Speechology so that we don’t have to wonder anymore. Speechology is an archive of videos that show politicians stumping for your vote. If a candidate said it on TV, we want you to be able to find it on here.
But instead of just showing you the video, we invite you to do your own research and then tell the rest of us what you found. Speechology is a place that does not care what your political preferences are. We only care if you contribute good research. If you would like to argue over politics, go somewhere else. Here, we value facts.
The sheer volume of election coverage can be daunting to follow for even the most hard-core election junkie, let alone the casual observer. A few sites do everyone the favor of breaking campaign reports and statements down to the facts, attempting to separate the truth from the truthiness.
FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. It is essentially a multimedia blog that responds to the factual assertions and allusions made in politics at the federal, state, and local levels. FactCheck.org’s staff elegantly analyzes candidates’ statements on such issues as a potential gas price fix for factual consistency. They dutifully list their reference sources and, for contextual emphasis, they frequently provide audio and video links to the candidates’ actual comments.
PolitiFact, mentioned previously on FreeGovInfo, is a service of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly Inc. PolitiFact’s trademark is its Truth-O-Meter, which measures political statements on a scale of “True” to “Pants on fire.” It’s handy for those who want bottom-line analysis straight away. Like FactCheck.org, PolitiFact does have full articles with which it provides sources and multimedia links, although the analysis is not quite as deep. But PolitiFact does a better job of organizing and integrating its content: you can browse statements by Truth-O-Meter rating, by subject, by the person who said it, by whom it was said against, and even by where it was said (TV ad, blog post, speech, etc.).
Other interesting fact-checking sites include:
The Center for Public Integrity – A “nonprofit, nonpartisan, non-advocacy, independent journalism organization” that uses investigative journalism to examine political and campaign issues in depth. Of particular note is the Buying of the President site which looks at how money influences the presidential campaigns.
Opensecrets.org – Tracks money in politics and distills it into graphs, charts, and brief summaries. It is run by the non-partisan, non-profit Center for Responsive Politics.
The Fact Checker – A Washington Post blog that analyzes campaign statements in a similar way to FactCheck.org and PolitiFact. The difference here is that topics are prompted by user suggestions. It employs a “Pinocchio Test” similar to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter.