How Biased Is the News? There’s a New App to Measure That
A little over a year ago, when the new tax reform bill was announced, Minnesota entrepreneur John Long noticed that some news sources claimed the bill would affect 95 percent of people, while others pegged it at 5 percent. This discrepancy appalled him.
“The rhetoric—it just screamed at me about how much propaganda really is going on in the media today,” says Long. “So, I was hungry for a way to have a B.S. meter.”
Long created Gnomi, an app that aggregates news articles and gives each one a political skew grade: Right 1-5 and Left 1-5, with 1 being the most moderate and 5 being the most extreme on each side.
Developed with the help of a professor at St. Olaf College, the app assigns bias grades based on feedback from both an artificial intelligence system and humans trained to rate the sources. Parameters for grading include the use of inflammatory words such as “plot” or “payback” instead of “strategize” and “in response.”
“We’ve gotten into a social justice atmosphere that has really created a rhetoric in mainstream media,” Long says. “Media is being encouraged to be more provocative on either side.”
The app also tracks reader habits and finds that 40 percent of users read articles on both sides of a debate. Long says readers seek wide-ranging sources to get the complete picture.
“We all have our crazy uncles who have these outlandish opinions,” Long says, “but the vast majority of people … are curious about [learning] and self-improvement.”
Gnomi attracted 2,000 users in its first three months after launching. Long believes Gnomi will not only help media consumers, but could perhaps serve as a spot-check for news publications.
Long likes the idea that media outlets might even begin to check themselves and ask about their own bias. “How awesome would that be?” he says. —Amanda Ostuni