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Slovakia: Checking Politicians’ Facts With Demagog.sk

Technology for Transparency Network This post is part of the Technology for Transparency Network where we research technology that promotes accountability and transparency worldwide· All Posts

Demagog.sk is a Slovakian web project that aims to analyze politicians’ claims based on facts and ensure they are correct and used in the right context.

Inspiration for the initiative came from a Slovak press watch blog (spw.blog.sme.sk) [sk] on which there were occasional posts about the country's Sunday debates and the factually inaccurate numbers/arguments that people had used in them. Projects such as PolitiFact and FactCheck in the United States fulfil the same function, where people analyse political claims and rate them as true/untrue/misleading/ etc.

Here, I spoke with Matej Hruska, the student founder of Demagog.sk.

Demagog.sk

Demagog.sk

Global Voices (GV): How much time did it take to launch the project before it went live? What were people's first reactions?

Matej Hruska (MH): We had a three months period of testing of what we would be capable of in terms of how much time is needed to analyse one television debate etc. We used the WordPress platform for the site, so to set it up was not very time consuming. First reactions were (and still are, when someone new comes to the site) that it is great to have someone who watches those political ramblings every Sunday. We launched the site couple of months before the elections so the attention was kind of logical.

GV: Has the idea changed since the start? What are your users saying and how are you adapting to their needs?

(MH): The idea is still the same, we use the same methodology, but we have upgraded the website and now we use a CMS made specifically for our needs (with statistics for every politician, etc).

Usually our users dont say much, or at least they don't say anything to us. The basic feedback we get is when someone is not satisfied with our analysis or conclusion.

GV: What are your plans for near and further future?

(MH): The plan is to cover debates on public radio as well, and to monitor politicians’ claims continually during the week, e.g. at major press conferences, events etc. Another goal is to spread the concept to other countries.

GV: What is/was your main obstacle while developing and running your project?

(MH): As with any similar project, the main obstacle is lack of time and money. In the beginning we ran the whole thing as a voluntary project in our free time; since September [2011] we have been getting some funding and other volunteers from a Slovak NGO, SGI. But we still have to find a way how to make the whole thing sustainable.

GV: How do you attract more people to interact?

(MH): The basic idea is that we want people to dispute our conclusion (sort of “crowdsourcing” the fact checking) – we do not think we are absolutely right in every case. However, people often react in an angry way, which rules out any rational discussion. Given that our main field is to fact check statements, we dont have any other special feature which would give people more space to get engaged.

GV: Have politicians ever contacted you to “straighten something out”? Or do you contact them?

(MH): Sometimes we try to contact them – in cases when they are talking about some report or governmental analysis which is not (yet) online – but they usually do not react.

In a few cases, some of them have contacted us, by commenting under the articles or by email, to add something to their claims, or to prove their opponent had been wrong. We analyse such additional information and if it makes some sense, we add them to the original conclusion, with the byline that they are from such and such person.

GV: How do you collect materials? Do you work as a media monitoring service or do you cooperate with one?

(MH): We have transcripts of debates from Newton Media (a media analysis firm); any other material we look up on Google. That is our main source and tool.

GV: How do you promote your analysis? Do you paste links to some comments below articles on mainstream media?

(MH): We have several opportunities to publish our findings (in fact, too many at the current time, and we don't have time to use them all) in the national media or online. The thing is that we are the first one who are doing something like this here [in Slovakia], so we have been able to attract some media attention.

We also do a kind of “realtime fact check”- we analyse some of the claims during the debates on Sunday using the coveritlive platform. Two slovak news server use the embed code of the coveritlive on their websites.

Thanks for taking the time to answer above questions. Good luck.

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