Politifact has been busier than average, fact checking American politics and ensuring Americans have a place to go for non-partisan fact checking, a place to check the statements their politicians make, which are increasingly misleading and false. It’s a place to settle internet and bar arguments, a place to go after a televised debate, and should be one of the most important stops a person makes before entering a voting booth. Never should someone vote on what they believe is true, only what is true.
People have an unconscious bias. They overestimate their own fact checking abilities. People tend to think that, because they can tell when their car salesman or friends are lying, that they can do the same with news articles they read or when politicians lie. The truth is, unless you’ve spent a lot of time pouring over relevant facts, it’s much more difficult. Politifact’s new game, PolitiTruth, available for iOS and Android, aims to reveal this bias, while simultaneously providing fact checks for current events. A better informed populous is what will return this country to sanity.
The app itself is simple, like Tinder. If a statement is true, swipe right. If the statement is false, swipe left. If you don’t believe an answer, you can click a link that will open Politifact in your browser, complete with the story in question, all the supporting facts, and links to the sources. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. There were some fact checks that were a little misleading. For example, above you can see a quote from Donald Trump on the left. Did he claim that the Republican’s tax bill would cost him a fortune? Yes. Ok, then it’s true he said that. However, was it a lie? Also yes, Donald Trump heavily influenced the tax bill, and it’ll give the largest tax breaks to the rich since the ones immediately proceeding the Great Depression. The tax bill will make Trump a fortune, not cost him one. The correct thing to do here was call this statement false, because what Trump said was a lie. In another example, Trump made false statements against Doug Jones, the man running against Roy Moore (Moore who has credibly been accused of sexual harassment by a number of women) for the vacant senate seat in Alabama. Trump claimed Jones wanted to raise taxes on the people of Alabama, a common attack Republicans make against Democrats. There’s just one problem, it’s not true. So, while it’s true that Trump attacked this man with a lie, it’s not true that Jones is planning to raise taxes. The other example above, Moore claims Muslims (and, separately, women) are not fit for office. Is that true? Well, Moore did make that claim, but the claim is false. However, the statement was made by Republican Jeff Flake, criticizing fellow Republican Roy Moore for his barbaric, un-American beliefs. Therefore, while what Roy Moore said was wrong, the fact that he said it was true. Basically, you have to look at the subject of the quote, and if they’re lying, swipe left, if they’re telling the truth, swipe right. Jeff Flake did say that about Roy Moore, who did make that claim. While Moore’s claim is obviously untrue, Flake’s statement about Moore was true.
Now you see how this can be a little confusing.
Politifact needs to do a few things for this app. First, they have to update it for the iPhone X. Often, this just takes a recompile with the latest version of Xcode, with perhaps a few small interface tweaks. Secondly, they have to consider some manual curation, something to make these statements easier to discern what Politifact wants us to fact check. It should be obvious if we’re fact checking that someone said something vs whether or not something someone said was true. Still, it’s a good app, and I recommend people download it. It’ll help you practice improving your bullshit meter, and you’ll be less likely to fall for fake news, Russian scams, and politicians’ lies in the future. PolitiTruth is free on the App Store and on Google Play.