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Online Fact-Checking Tool Gets a Big Test With Nepal Earthquake

By Technology Review

April 29, 2015

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Standby Task Force is a group of volunteer "digital humanitarians" that takes action after disasters at the request of international agencies and local relief organizations. The group is using Verily, an experimental Web platform, to crowdsource rumor verification as quickly as possible in response to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday.

Users go to Verily's website and read short tutorials on simple, established ways to verify data such as the source of an image or the date and location of a report on a social network. Users answer yes-or-no verification questions about reports, provided they supply evidence supporting their answer. The Standby Task Force uses the evidence posted by Verily users to pass along confirmed information to relief organizations.

However, tools such as Verily are only powerful if a lot of people use them. Building a large user base has been the biggest challenge in the wake of the Nepal disaster, according to Standby Task Force president Justine Mackinnon. Over the past couple of days, the group has been teaching about 200 Nepali volunteers how to use the platform, with the expectation they can then recruit others from their personal networks.

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