LazyTruth: Fact as Easy as Fiction

2012 – // @lazytruthapp

In addition to my thesis, I designed LazyTruth, an inbox fact-checking tool for commonly forwarded email chains. We’ve compiled a database of viral misinformation with partners in the fact-checking community. Our team built an open source Google Chrome extension, a misinformation database and API, and a script that allows users to simply forward us emails for an automatic response. LazyTruth has been featured in Engadget, New Scientist, BoingBoing, the New York Times, and the Economist, among other places. It also won UNESCO’s 2013 NetExplo award, where I presented LazyTruth to an audience of 800 in Paris.

LazyTruth logo


Trust in traditional news outlets has declined precipitously, to the lowest point in two decades of polling (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press). Trust in word of mouth from friends, family, and even strangers remains the most trusted form of media (Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey). And there’s still a large amount of misinformation spread in forwarded emails, some of it wildly inaccurate. Over 40% of all polled age groups of Americans share and forward political information online, and older online political users are the most likely to forward political content and commentary (Pew Internet & American Life Project).

So, we get a lot of information informally, from friends and family. And we’ve all received crazy emails forwarded by well-meaning-but-misinformed friends and family. We no longer suffer from a dearth of information, but from frequent exposure to high volumes of low quality information, and high quality information is never conveniently available when we need it most. The misinformation spread rapidly through email and other online channels is a failure on the part of the individual to consult unbiased sources before further amplifying the message. But even those of us who are unconvinced, or who completely disagree with its content, are burdened with the responsibility to respond. We may not know where to begin in rebuking the misinformation, or may simply not have the time it takes to write a compelling reply. This is a failure of information accessibility.


LazyTruth Screenshot

The LazyTruth inbox widget surfaces pre-existing verified information to debunk viral rumors when the information is needed most: in our inboxes. The gadget is triggered by the unique phrases used in the most common viral emails tracked by factchecking and urban rumor websites.

When you receive a viral email full of fallacies, LazyTruth retrieves and displays a verified rebuttal, and provides you with the original sources. It all happens right in your inbox, without requiring you to search anywhere. Thanks to this contextual gadget, we can intervene directly at the moment when misinformation is delivered. The result is that it becomes much more convenient for citizens to combat misinformation, rather than acquiesce to its volume.

“Delivering kernels of truth right to your inbox.”

“A great way to make us all even lazier more efficient when it comes to debunking some of the wilder rumors”