No More Political Lies? Real-Time Lie Detection Service Debuting

Remember when Mitt Romney declared during the first Presidential debate, “I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families?”  Later, in the same debate, he stated that “pre-existing conditions are covered under my [health care] plan.”

Didn’t you want to jump up and scream “liar” at him? Especially since neither President Obama nor Jim Lehrer seemed willing to challenge Romney on anything.

Until now, we’ve relied on some excellent sites such as Annenberg Public Policy Center’s, the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly’s PolitiFact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog to examine outrageous claims and let us know, after the fact, that our politicians were lying, or bending the truth.

Now the Washington Post’s “Truth Teller” will denounce those lies in as close to real time as possible.  Built by the Post with funding from Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund, Truth Teller is a prototype of a news application, created in just three months.

Truth Teller is a fully automated fact-checking program that displays “TRUE” or “FALSE” in real time next to video of politicians and pundits as they speak.

Check out a demonstration:

How does the program work?

From The Knight Foundation:

We’ve combined video and audio extraction with a speech-to-text technology to search a database of facts and fact checks. The Post also worked with Dan Schultz, creator of Truth Goggles, as he helped consult and shared his knowledge of real-time fact checking. We are effectively taking in video, converting the audio to text, matching that text to our database, and then displaying, in real time, what’s true and what’s false. The key to the project’s success is building an authoritative database – our goal is to identify falsehoods, not create more of them.

As of now, this is just the beginning: the program is only a prototype and is limited to topics it’s been designed to recognize. Also, in some areas it has to be manually fed facts.

The Knight Foundation explains how it will be developed:

For the prototype, we focused on the coming debate over tax reform, both because of its timing and importance. The tax debate will play out over several months and naturally lends itself to deceit and deception – even more so than many policy discussions. We hope that our application will help direct the conversation toward the truth as it is happening so that Americans get a fair shot at deciding this critical issue.

The Washington Post‘s eventual plan is for Truth Teller to be available everywhere on the internet: citizens would be able to use their smartphones to fact-check politicians as they speak. Imagine how empowering it would be challenge a politician on the spot, after you used your amazing new Truth Teller app!

Are there any downsides?

I recall years ago meeting some American tourists in London who swore that President Nixon was innocent. This was in the 80s, long after his downfall and exit from the White House. Sadly, the reality is that some people will always stick to blatant lies, regardless of information that proves them definitively wrong.

Last week, Mother Jones reported “The More Republicans Know About Politics, The More They Believe In Conspiracy Theories.” We’d love to believe that the truth sets us free, but human psychology gets in the way sometimes.

So Truth Teller won’t be 100 percent successful.

There’s another issue: a “fact” may be declared “true” by this program, but may in reality be only a half-truth. For example, politicians including President Obama often declare that drones kill terrorists. Truth Teller would not call that a lie, but the reality is that plenty of other facts about drone warfare are omitted.

Nevertheless, this project fulfills one of the most critical missions of all journalists: to inform and educate the public, regardless of political affiliation.

I count this as a very important step forward, if we are closer to the possibility of no politician ever being to get away with spreading lies.

What do you think?

Related Care2 Coverage

Top 7 Lies Of The First Debate

5 Signs That A Politician Is Lying

Romney Camp: We’ll Continue Lying, Because It’s Working

Photo Credit: screenshot from vimeo video


Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins5 years ago

I am now picturing something like MTV/VH1's Pop-up Video. lol

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

David F., you are completely right on all points. Obama seems to lie every time his mouth moves.

Neil A.
Neil A5 years ago

David f perhaps it should be used on YOU (I no longer support what OBAMA has done or at least allowed to be done) but consider the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq & Afganistan due to Bush's insane & illegal wars.
Nick A stick to the TRUTH not some factless stupidity, although some TRUTH in Only an idiot trusts a career politician,yes they may well be in it for what they can get out of it.

Harley Williams
Harley W5 years ago

I hope people on both sides get checked. But If people actually use it would be great.

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

The truth is as perceived and you can't show truth to someone blinded by the far right.

Nick Andrews
Nico Smart5 years ago

Only an idiot trusts a career politician, period. Party is irrelevant. Look at the current scumbag squatting in the White House. He claims to represent the middle class, working people, yet he has never had an actual job in his life or worked for anything. Everything he has was handed to him, and that's how he thinks life should be for everyone. I guess he must really be stupid enough to believe that wealth and success just appear out of thin air... All he does is pander to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to buy their votes and it apparently worked.

Ronald Nichols
Ronald Nichols5 years ago

Ugh! Of course the baggers would still say that "it's lying". That's their new tactic now that the liberals and fact checkers caught the GOP in their lies so many times this past election cycle... now they're just calling us liars when we call out their lies...

Nick Andrews
Nico Smart5 years ago

I hate to tell you Carlene, but Condi did not run. All we have is another crooked shyster lawyer from the most corrupt city in the nation.

Carlene V.
Carlene V5 years ago

It could work but I wonder about a half-truth and how it would score that. It could also remove faux noise from the airways as almost every politican who appears on faux noise is lying to those who are too brain-washed to even want to know the truth. You know, a black President and all...

ElizabethM C.
Past Member 5 years ago

The one sure way to know if a politician is lying is whether his lips are moving.