True, False, Unverified
October 2, 2014 2:01 AM   Subscribe

Emergent is a real-time rumor tracker.

About: "It's part of a research project with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University that focuses on how unverified information and rumor are reported in the media. It aims to develop and best practices for debunking misinformation. Read more about the research here."
posted by davidjmcgee (34 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
this is hilarious. also a little bit sad. but mostly hilarious.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:15 AM on October 2, 2014


It's like Snopes by Serious Journalists .... or Mythbusters without the explosions.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:22 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


What we really need is some way to fund an international team of fighters who can be directed at idiot journalists who blindly feed the news machine by cutting and pasting stories that are clearly bullshit, like the 3 boob woman, and idiots who repost total bollocks on FaceBook without checking. Some of that nonsense is medically-related and potentially dangerous.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:46 AM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


On research.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:59 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, god, I want one of these for Japan...with some sort of Greasemonkey script which would insert a green "True" or red "False" symbol next to each shared article in my Facebook feed. Though I suspect I'd get red burn-in on my monitor.
posted by Bugbread at 3:10 AM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Seems like the Emmental cheese rumour is specific enough to be falsifiable without a rumour site.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:41 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd love that too, Bugbread, but thus far they seem to stay away from anything overtly political. That doesn't cover the most pernicious stuff that crosses my Facebook timeline.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:41 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


This needs tag icons for rumors like SA threads or fark posts or something. bugbread's category would make a great one. "those zany asians!" or something.

An entire separate site like this could be made just for stupid rumors that people seem to reflexively believe about how "weird" japan/east asia is. Even one of the two north korea ones on there seem to fall vaguely into that category.

But really, the humorous tag icons, i almost want to email them and beg.
posted by emptythought at 4:00 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Crazy Japan!" Tag? I think you mean "Uncle Mike" or "Aunt Phyllis."
posted by From Bklyn at 4:23 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


So the three-breasted woman story isn't true? It seemed so believable.
posted by octothorpe at 4:32 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just see a blank website with a mailing list sign-up field.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:02 AM on October 2, 2014


Claim: A man was saved from a bear attack thanks to a Justin Bieber ringtone

And I was so hoping this was true.
posted by sammyo at 5:38 AM on October 2, 2014


So for future hoaxers, the plan is to study how these guys validate their info and figure out how to game the Emergent system.
posted by sammyo at 5:41 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


~Claim: A man was saved from a bear attack thanks to a Justin Bieber ringtone
~And I was so hoping this was true.


You can tell it was false. Everyone knows that would have actually driven the bear into a homicidal rage.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:56 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Challenge accepted!

I wonder how long before my rumor about Rep. Steve King being afraid to debate Jim Mowrer because Mowrer has really big calves will take to get on the site.

Or the one about Joni Ernst working her way through college as a stripper. Iowa values!

Or the one about Dennis Kucinich seeing UFOs.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:03 AM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


So they're jumping on "misinformation" like the lady with the ta-ta-tas but ignoring "overtly political stuff" like, say, everything Fox News says about the left? Feels like a missed opportunity.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:26 AM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


So the three breasted woman is a fake? I love my faith in humanity after balloon boy and this is doing nothing to restore it!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:27 AM on October 2, 2014


Needs greasemonkey integration or at least tags and search.
Maybe an RSS feed? People prefer mailing lists?
posted by Akeem at 6:36 AM on October 2, 2014


Er, actually I wasn't talking about rumors about Japan, but the rumors which are spread in Japan. Like, I absolutely love the concept and design, but the rumors I see from my friends and acquaintances on Facebook here in Japan are all about the dengue fever outbreak or NHK, not about the Middle East or ESPN.
posted by Bugbread at 6:37 AM on October 2, 2014


> So for future hoaxers, the plan is to study how these guys validate their info and figure out how to game the Emergent system.

Dunno. The current strategy of spreading misinformation as quickly and widely as possible before the Truth has a chance to catch up seems to be working quite well. As long as the emotional reactions are visceral enough to dominate logic, and especially in the absence of challenging, plausible alternatives.

Take cjorgensen's examples for instance—dangers of slander and libel aside. Depending on how ignorant one is of Joni Ernst and how much they buy into the prevalence of the "stripping through college" idea in general, that rumor might fly for a while, at least in the back of some people's minds. Maybe a more plausible one about her selling small town drugs would last even longer. The point being that the best way to game the Truth is to make your lies more believable. There's no doubt some tradeoff in the plausibility of a given rumor and it's potential impact, but I'd hate to think it's someone's job to just sit in a room all day and come up with the most believable lies to sell the public.

In the case of the Emergent system, it looks like you would need to buy out, pay off, or otherwise coerce a number of unique sources of information, and I welcome this and any additional family of obstacles to the injection of special interests into news media.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 6:49 AM on October 2, 2014


EndsOfInvention: I just see a blank website with a mailing list sign-up field.

Turn off/whitelist the site in your NoScript or other script blocker.
posted by Hold your seahorses at 6:51 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have it whitelisted in AdBlock but still not working. I don't have any other script blockers installed (I'm using Chrome).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:24 AM on October 2, 2014


Next you'll be telling me that this isn't an actual photograph.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:29 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm just going to stick with Factbot for everything I need to know.
posted by malocchio at 7:45 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is amusing enough for those of us who are already aware that lots of stuff passed around on the net is bullshit, but it's never going to make a difference to people who pass that bullshit around. I mean, it would be nice (and by nice I mean "in my perfect imaginary benevolent dictatorship," not nice for real) if anyone who forwarded/posted more than two bullshit pieces in a given time-frame was unable to forward anything on the internet for say, six weeks after their second bullshit forward.... like a time-out for adults.

We can dream.
posted by tzikeh at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall a study a while back which showed that the net effect of news reports debunking rumors was to propagate the rumor even more.
posted by yoink at 8:58 AM on October 2, 2014


Well, that's what they want you to think.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is a phenomenal website. It looks like they get their numbers from the original article social media shares, but I wonder how they get the articles in the first place. Hopefully it's not a human being forced to trawl for articles about rumors?
posted by rebent at 9:47 AM on October 2, 2014


Why isn't it called Sick Sad World?
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


An interesting idea, and I hope it grows and becomes more useful.

I'd love to see the addition of an "original reporting" tag, or some other way to distinguish between sources that aren't just repeating each other.

Also, the distinction between "for" and "observing" seems to be very subtle. Otherwise entirely credulous articles and headlines that only repeat statements from other news outlets seem to land in one or the other category based on their use of quotation marks and minor details of attribution.

For example, consider the "Kim Jong Un broke both of his ankles" story. The Metro UK, Daily Beast, and Telegraph stories are more or less identical, but get different ratings, apparently based on how often they mention that they're only quoting a Chosun Ilbo story. Meanwhile, Chosun Ilbo, which originated the story and presumably did all the actual reporting, gets an "observing" status, since everything is attributed to specific sources. (I'm not sure if the English language version actually is the original, or if it's a translation put out by the same paper.) That categorization seems less useful than it could be as an indicator of truthiness.
posted by eotvos at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2014


I seem to recall a study a while back which showed that the net effect of news reports debunking rumors was to propagate the rumor even more.
Was that the one funded by the Streisand Foundation?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think that this was the study I was thinking of, but it's a similar one: How Warnings About False Claims Become Recommendations (pdf). It seems this is sometimes referred to as "the Illusion of Truth" effect or the "Illusory Truth" effect.
posted by yoink at 12:46 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Claim: Kim Jong Un is ill because he eats too much cheese

Like that is even possible, said Wisconsin.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:03 PM on October 2, 2014


Claim: Kim Jong Un broke both of his ankles (Unverified)

I hope they at least claim it's true because I cannot wait to hear the outlandish/heroic way this happened.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:58 AM on October 3, 2014


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