Week 8 / Week 9 – Poligraft

14 Mar

Poligraft is a useful tool, but it is somewhat narrow in scope; it’s best used for political articles, as the name implies. For the assignment I submitted a New York Times article on some anti-hacking legislation that is being proposed in Congress. A rash of low-level hacker attacks has caused security advocates to push for a tightening of regulations on private companies that deal with government networks like power grids. A bill for the legislation has been proposed by Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, while John McCain has sponsored a counter-bill with fewer restrictions on the companies.

The Poligraft results were quick and detailed. All of the three named senators (as well as Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary) had entries detailing contributions from individuals and PACs. The “Influence Explorer” pages break down which industries these contributions come from.

The results weren’t perfect, especially with regard to nonpolitical organizations. A mention of the infamous hacker group Anonymous in the article led Poligraft to include a graphic on the completely unrelated Parents Anonymous, while “National Security Council” returned an entry on the National Council of Security Police. A “James A. Lewis” quoted in the article was also turned into “James B. Lewis,” who is apparently a lobbyist. Journalists using Poligraft to fact-check have to be careful that all of the listed organizations and people are the same ones as in the original article.


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