Candidates running for office in 2018 will have virtually every aspect of their campaign captured by digital devices, much of it being uploaded and shared to platforms. It won’t just be their public campaign rallies but any speech given in a living room, community center or church. Every claim, position statement, gaffe, or misstep has the potential to be caught for both accountability and posterity during the democratic process.
CAMPAIGN:18 exists to change the way that campaigns are reported by capturing, indexing, transcribing, fact-checking and verifying every review-worthy claim or action of the candidates running for office. This will hold candidates accountable as they will be fact-checked against their very own speeches, statements, remarks and actions. The legacy of this project will be a campaign coverage playbook combining technology and editorial innovation that will be replicated and iterated globally.
The Time Is Right
Understanding that elections are increasingly susceptible to narratives created and amplified through social media and micro-targeted through ad-tech, there is pressing need for serious efforts to catalogue, verify, and fact-check video and audio from the campaign trail. Smartphone penetration rates and public social shares of this content creates the potential to exhaustively collect this content for the first time.
CAMPAIGN:18 will forward the innovations in election monitoring that were developed during US presidential elections in 2016 and then refined in Kenya, Hong Kong, France and the UK in 2017.
To fact-check candidates against themselves and hold them truly accountable we will combine technological and editorial innovation with collaborative journalism to:
- Build social media monitoring systems and audience participation programs to find, source and receive submissions of user-generated video, photos and accounts from across the entire campaign trail of every candidate. By actively encouraging the capture of speeches big and small through people on the ground and feeds from traditional media we will have the most complete record of a candidate’s remarks ever made. This will also be a new model for engaging a diverse community in the reporting, verification and fact-checking process.
- Issue tag, timestamp, geolocate, and index this content to each candidate, enabling a view of how consistent a candidate remains on a single issue or position.
- Work closely with our technology partners to build bespoke software, algorithms and ontologies to meet specific needs of journalists and researchers.
- Create an open, searchable, API accessible claims database (CDB) for every candidate, logging every speech and appearance into a database that will be open to all participating project partners, opening up multiple ways this data may be analysed and reported.
- Link the transcriptions of claims in the CDB to an archive of the video, audio, and photographic records they are sourced from, so that this multimedia may easily accessed and used as part of the reporting process of all participating organisations.
Creating a Proprietary Technology Stack for Campaign Coverage
We plan to engage with our technology partners to create new, fit-for-purpose technologies that will allow this project to grow for every future election, adapting to trends and technical capability.
We hope to focus technical innovation on these initial core areas:
- To develop an essential tool for text and multimedia claims verification and workflow management for structured data around election campaigns and misinformation.
- To create monitoring and logging tools with speech to text transcription that can be used to capture campaign data for fast analysis and reporting.
- To work with partners to develop and refine software, algorithms, ontologies and AI applications that will allow projects like this to be replicated far more easily in the future.
- To create tools and communication workflows that help facilitate collaborative journalism projects on this scale.
Scaling It Up
This project will be piloted in the 2018 US Midterm Elections in preparation for a larger implementation for the 2020 cycle.
We are working to take this model to European, African, Latin American, and Pacific Asian elections scheduled for 2018-19, having a playbook and supporting technologies that local partners can use and innovate from, allows this work to serve equally valuable reporting and public service interests globally.
This concept can easily be applied beyond election cycles to other news coverage of breaking events.
Funding and Participation
A project of this scope and social impact is likely to draw a wide range of partners and at the outset we embrace a wide model for partner inclusion in project design and implementation; the more newsrooms and technologists that join us, the greater the project’s impact..
If you like the idea of capturing and verifying election promises and statements through the many months leading up to these critical midterm elections taking place during this ideologically divisive moment in US politics, then we welcome your participation and/or your support. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
These organizations have already agreed to join us in designing, building, and delivering on this ambitious project: