New fact check on politicians to be launched

By Tom Ravlic

March 16, 2022

parliament house, canberra
All the technological advancements in the world won’t solve this crisis unless we adapt our mindsets. (Randal/Adobe)

Australian voters will have a new resource to check on the words and deeds of the parliamentary representatives when Polipedia, a website that will aggregate publicly available information on politicians, launches.

The site, which is expected to be live before the election, will pull together open-source information about a federal member of parliament that may currently be located on different websites and published in multiple formats on a single dashboard. 

It will initially cover the federal political scene in Australia, but its creators intend to expand the resource to the states and territories.

Su Dharmapala, one of three co-founders of Polipedia, said the underlying principle of Polipedia was to make it easier for people to search for information related to their elected representatives.

“We’re getting the beta site up, where users can find who their local MP is, who funds them, how they’ve voted, what they’ve said in parliament and what expense claims they’ve made, all in one the place,” Dharmapala said.

The site will also have a function that displays the result of sentiment tracking on social media and media coverage. Dharmapala said the real-time sentiment tracking will enable people to get an assessment of community attitudes towards a particular member of parliament and their performance.

“Sentiment tracking will be data-driven from a combination of media monitoring and social media activity – a real-time look at what real people think of an MP’s performance and whether their followers are real people or display bot-like behaviour,” Dharmapala said.

“We’ve been working with our tech teams in Sydney, Australia, and Colombo, Sri Lanka, and sharing demonstrations over Zoom. It works.”

Dharmapala and fellow founders, Sally Stockbridge and Ebony McKenna, are working to get the site ready so voters are able to use it as a source for fact rather than opinion when they consider casting their vote.

“It’s all about facts and data, not people’s opinions or interpretations. Nobody will be telling you what to think, because this is data, in all its objective glory,” Dharmapala said.

McKenna, a former journalist, said the site will be useful for journalists for whom covering politics has traditionally meant going down digital rabbit holes necessary information.

“I would have loved this when I was working in the newsroom. I wish we’d done this sooner,” McKenna said.


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