“Alexa … who is telling the truth?”
Winston Churchill believed that the best argument against democracy was a five-minute chat with the average voter. For millions of average American voters, that five minutes has now gone on for more than a year and a half.
After months of campaigning, mud-slinging, televised debates, scandals, the two candidates vying to be the leader of the free world will finally get to find out if it was all worth it On November 8th. And the United States can—hopefully—return to some level of normalcy (a word coined on another presidential trail, a long, long time ago)
The people will, finally, make the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. People make decisions based on what they know—or what they think they know. As election day approaches, the adage that knowledge is power becomes ever more important.
Which is one reason why Amazon’s Alexa’s latest skill could be extremely useful.
In an email to ARC, Amazon said that people have been asking Alexa millions of questions that relate to the 2016 election. The most popular questions have been about Donald Trump—how old is he, is he actually rich, how big are his hands—but what people need to know is just how accurate numerous campaign claims are by both candidates.
Alexa: “Facts, Nothing But The Facts”
Alexa now has the answers to these 2016 campaign queries.
The “Share the Facts” skill (the Echo’s version of an app) leverages some of the country’s most respected fact-checkers. The intention is to provide voters with actual facts as opposed to campaign bluster or fear-mongering.
The skill was developed by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and technology incubator Jigsaw (which is part of Alphabet, Google’s parent company) as part of a project to expand the reach of fact-checking. An ongoing issue throughout Trump and Clinton’s campaigns has been the level of familiarity that their supporters have with actual facts—a sliding scale that goes from zero to absolute trust.
Fact-checking has been a major theme during the last 10 months, as the fragmented media landscape attempts to divine what candidates are actually telling the truth. A 24/7 news cycle has meant that mainstream media has been bogged down in political analysts and surrogates explaining what their preferred candidate actually meant when they spoke in public.
At the same time, every time Donald or Hilary says something—on television or on the stump—an army of media fact-checkers swarms over the information and tells us whether the stated fact is right. Or just plain wrong. Or Pants On Fire wrong.
Alexa now has access to some of these fact-checkers, which means that you can sit comfortably on your couch and ask questions in real-time. Simply say the words “Alexa, ask the fact-checkers …” and she will give you an answer to your question.
Share the Facts has a database of around 2,000 professionally curated fact-checks such as whether Donald Trump opposed the war in Iraq (he didn’t) or whether Hilary Clinton was allowed to use a private server for her government emails (she was, but it was frowned upon).
“With the new Share the Facts skill, owners of the Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices, including the Tap and the Dot, can “ask the fact-checkers” about claims they hear from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as other candidates and politicians who have been checked,” said Share the Facts project manager Erica Ryan, in blog post. “We encourage you to try checking candidates’ claims from your couch after watching a campaign ad or during a discussion around the dinner table.”
You can even ask Alexa who she is voting for—“if I could vote, I would vote for BB8 … I like the way he rolls”—but the acid test will come on election day itself.
Alexa Is Looking Forward To November 8
Amazon Echo owners will be able to ask Alexa for real-time updates on who is leading the election or which states the candidates have won or even individual results for specific districts. For example, voters—or a concerned non-participatory resident alien—can ask Alexa who is projected to win key battleground states like Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
As somebody who is obsessed with politics (and Alexa), this new skill is just what I needed to revitalize my interest in the race to the White House. Facts are the essential part of a journalist’s tool bag, especially when you can just ask a question into thin air and get an answer from your digital assistant. And facts will ultimately define the result of this long-running election process.
Which means that on November 9, I will finally be able to ask my Amazon Echo a very important question … “Alexa, is it all over yet?”
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