I built a site that collects fact checks from 6 news/fact checking organizations. If — like me — you wanted a single place to find a range of legitimate fact checks, then head on over to https://www.flammablepants.com.
The (Somewhat More) Complete Version
People lie on the internet.
Shocking. I know.
Keeping track of the lies, and the debunking of those lies, is incredibly difficult. It is multiple full time jobs, and even then, the work is not done.
Fortunately, there are professionals doing this. Unfortunately, their work is published across multiple sites, and unless you know exactly where to look, it can be difficult to find. In order to make it easier to access the good work being done by professionals, I wanted a single place to see this work. My attempt to create something I find useful lives at https://www.flammablepants.com. Flammable Pants — by design — only contains a list and summaries of the more detailed fact checks created by legitimate organizations, and every story links back to the original source.
At present, the site shares links back to six news/fact checking organizations: LeadStories, FactCheck.org, Politifact, Reuters, Snopes, and USA Today. I run a script that collects stories once a day, and publishes them onto the site at https://www.flammablepants.com. The script also tracks what fact checks are published each day — I need this to ensure I don’t publish duplicate stories from the same source, and possibly, it might be of interest to analyze what stories, and what types of stories, were given attention by fact checkers.
This post contains a high level summary of the choices I made while building this site.
High Level Technical Overview
This overview is general – if you want to get into the details, the codebase is probably what you want.
The site has two components: collecting posts from different publicly available sources, and then preparing and organizing a summary of new posts.
Four of the six sources have RSS feeds for their fact checks. This is incredibly helpful. Two of the six — Reuters, and USA Today — don’t. It would be great if they did, but they don’t.
When the script runs, it creates a list of new posts. This list is compared to a pre-existing list of posts that have already been collected and published. All new posts are then queued up and are now ready to be included in the daily roundup of fact checks.
The new posts are grouped by source, and then listed by date. Because this list is being published on the web, the information needs to be represented in html. Once the list of fact checks has been organized into html, it is published to an external web site (aka, https://www.flammablepants.com).
The entire script runs in approximately 60 seconds.
The sources highlighted at Flammable Pants are all reasonably well known. When I started working on this site (which I have done on the weekends and nights in my spare time), the BBC had a more complete listing of fact checks called BBC Verify at https://www.bbc.com/news/reality_check. However, while I was building this site, the BBC Verify page was reworked, and the section of the page that had the steady stream of fact checks was removed. I’ll be checking the BBC Verify page to see if they add this data back in, but because it no longer contained a regular stream of fact checks I removed it as a source.
(protip: I’m not a fan of safe search, but when doing a search for “BBC Verify” safe search can be very useful)
Why Am I Doing This?
I wanted a single place to review fact checks. In theory, I could go to each of these six sites every day and see what they have, but I’m lazy, and I’d rather not do that. I’d much rather go to a single place and click links there.
Also, I’m fine not doing this — I’ll almost certainly maintain Flammable Pants through the end of the US election in November 2024, but if a credible entity either wants to take this over, or builds something better, I’m fine mothballing the site.
FlammablePants.com Will Never Have Advertising
Image Credit: https://giphy.com/gifs/nowthisnews-fire-slow-motion-the-mo-guys-bnZO61TOFUNXy