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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 17, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Online voter guide gets fact-checking librarians

To cut through political malarkey, the University of Washington’s online voting guide is bringing in a binder full of librarians.

Fact-checking by Seattle Public Library staff is a new feature of the Living Voters Guide developed by UW computer science and communications researchers.

The guide, presented with the Seattle City Club, is a sort of online election information source and forum, where people can post short arguments for or against ballot measures.

Posts that are flagged by users will be referred to library staffers who will fact-check them and post results within 48 hours, according to the UW’s announcement.

The guide began three years ago and drew more than 10,000 users during last year’s election season.

Also new this year is an expansion of the project to California, where the UW team is working with the University of Southern California and University of California-Berkeley.

Research based on the project was funded by the National Science Foundation and a research award from Google.

Travis Kriplean, a UW computer science and engineering researcher, used work on the guide for his doctoral thesis on “Encouraging Reflective Discussion on the Web.”

Now he’s taking it a step further. He’s planning a startup company that will “help government agencies, nonprofits and even companies promote civil online debate on thorny issues,” according to the UW’s release.

“As a research project it’s been successfully incubated in the university and we’re going to try to take it out, stabilize it and make it more of a product,” he said in the release.

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