Inspiration

Fake news. From affecting the outcome of presidential elections and international exits* to causing chaos revolving around killer clowns, unsubstantiated, uninformed and intentionally misleading content is dangerous, even if it’s often amusing.

You can’t trust everything you read. With the rise of social sharing, the ability to reach millions, if not billions of people, is within the reach of any source, whether or not their content is valid. Viral is as viral does, and as easily as heartwarming, community-knitting stories can make their way around the world, so can those that are hateful, violent, or specifically created to twist and distort public opinion on a certain subject. 62% of Americans polled** reported that Facebook, Twitter and other social sites were their primary news source - we need to make sure there’s an easy, intuitive way around the world to verify their news before they make decisions, or take actions, based on ‘news’ published purely for ad revenue gained from viral click-throughs, or, in a more sinister vein, to actively mislead and misinform them in a bid for political power.

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” Melania Trump

*potentially, POTENTIALLY, affecting…

**is this true? Do you know? DO YOU? …. Exactly.

What it does

Ask Alexa if a news headline appears to be trustworthy. CheckYour.Press helps you decide if the content you’re reading can be trusted.

How we built it

An Alexa skill that handles a dynamic, full sentence input and passes it to an api end point. The api was built in rails, uses the Bing news api to discover what domains a news headline appears in, also checks to see if the headline appears with words synonymous with 'fake' to determine it's probable validity.

We follow up a query with a prompt to allow the user to request a link to see the sources in which this headline appears. The link is sent using the Twilio sms api.

We also built a website that allows the user to voice or text search using a web browser on desktop or mobile devices.

Challenges we ran into

  • Alexa doesn't support dynamic, long string input so we had to find a way to catch a full headline and send that to our api. We managed it in the end.
  • Assessing the right tone of voice to gently suggest that a headline might or might not be trustworthy

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • The Alexa skill handling dynamic sentence input was tricky. Thanks to Romain from the Amazon Alexa team for his patience and help.
  • News worthy detection

What we learned

We'd never used Alexa ASK before, we'd never thought about how to determine the trustworthyness of news articles.

What's next for CheckYour.Press

More detailed, filtered results. Grouping news outlets by owner to determine bias, agenda or political leaning.

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