We’ve built an inbox extension that surfaces quality information when you receive an email forward full of political myths, urban legends, or security threats. It’s called LazyTruth. If you have Chrome and use Gmail, you can install it now.
People who consulted fact-checking sites in the 2012 election had a better understanding of candidates’ positions, even after controlling for party, ideology, interest in the election, gender, age, education, and race (source). LazyTruth brings this knowledge to you.
We’ve built a Chrome extension for Gmail, and we’re looking to expand to other mail providers and browsers. If you’re a developer and would like to help in this effort, get in touch or fork some code.
Trust in traditional news outlets has declined precipitously, to the lowest point in two decades of polling (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press). Trust in word of mouth from friends, family, and even strangers remains the most trusted form of media (Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey). And there’s still a large amount of misinformation spread in forwarded emails, some of it wildly inaccurate. Over 40% of all polled age groups of Americans share and forward political information online, and older online political users are the most likely to forward political content and commentary (Pew Internet & American Life Project).
So, we get a lot of information informally, from friends and family. And we’ve all received crazy emails forwarded by well-meaning-but-misinformed friends and family. We no longer suffer from a dearth of information, but from frequent exposure to high volumes of low quality information, and high quality information is never conveniently available when we need it most. The misinformation spread rapidly through email and other online channels is a failure on the part of the individual to consult unbiased sources before further amplifying the message. But even those of us who are unconvinced, or who completely disagree with its content, are burdened with the responsibility to respond. We may not know where to begin in rebuking the misinformation, or may simply not have the time it takes to write a compelling reply. This is a failure of information accessibility.
The LazyTruth inbox extension surfaces pre-existing verified information to debunk viral rumors when the information is needed most: in our inboxes. The gadget is triggered by the unique phrases used in the most common viral emails tracked by factchecking and urban rumor websites.
When you receive a viral email full of fallacies, LazyTruth retrieves and displays a verified rebuttal, and provides you with the original sources. It all happens right in your inbox, without requiring you to search anywhere. Thanks to this contextual gadget, we can intervene directly at the moment when misinformation is delivered. The result is that it becomes much more convenient for citizens to combat misinformation, rather than acquiesce to its volume.