French company Trooclick are planning to release a browser plug-in to 'automatically fact check' articles when a reader visits a news site.
The app, currently only for Firefox, will flag up any inconsistencies in the story with publicly recorded data that it has stored, showing 'glitches' with an icon next to the headline and providing further information in a pop-out box.
"We dive into databases," explained Robyn Bligh, a translator at the Paris-based company, told Journalism.co.uk. "So, for example, for IPOs [initial public offerings]. Because in the States, listed companies have to file all their information with the Security and Exchange Commission [SEC], all that information is free to access.
"So what our technology does is dive in to retrieve that information and stock it. Once we have that we can compare everything that's said in news articles about, for example, Facebook's IPO and we know whether that corresponds with what the company files in papers. That's the idea."
A screenshot of the Trooclick app in action
Trooclick automatically identifies inconsistencies between different media reports on the same story, currently spanning 76 English-language news outlets, or "filing conflicts" that do not match with the information filed with the SEC.
Through the 'media ethics' panel, the app also notifies readers as to whether the website has a history of native advertising, recognising errors on stories, clearly marking updates or correcting errors.
At present, the app is only available by request and deals solely in business news, but a public beta is planned for release in the summer as more criteria are added to the fact-checking capabilities, Bligh said.
"We are planning on expanding. Obviously the goal is to be able to fact check any kind of news on any topic, but we have to proceed by theme," she continued. "So we do want to go into politics, we'd like to go into legal matters as well. Obviously politics has the most interest in terms of fact-checking, but doing that automatically would be hard."
Economic information could be the best place to start though, she said, as quantifiable, recorded facts that are often used in political point scoring.
A screenshot of the 'filing conflicts' section of the Trooclick app
Although the initial aim for Trooclick is to "raise awareness that you can't trust anything", said Bligh, the company hope it will become a desktop tool for journalists and publishers as well.
"You would integrate it on your dashboard and before you publish it you run the app on your article," she said. "If there are mistakes, Trooclick would tell you what was a mistake and to check your information. So the idea is that would help in there being less mistakes online.
"But the feedback we get from journalists is mitigated, some people think it's great, there'll be less mistakes, others feel a bit threatened about it. We are prepared to have bad reviews."
Trooclick was founded by Stanislas Motte, a French journalist and entrepreneur, in November 2012. It received funding from BPIFrance after six months, basing its office in the investment bank's start-up space, and was granted the status of "Young Innovative Company" by the French government in June 2013.
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