Gear | October 16, 2014 9:00 am

The Truth About Ebola and 3-Boobed Women

Emergent: A site that combats online bullshit

By The Editors

Regardless of what Dave in accounting told you, pumpkin spice condoms are not a thing.

The Florida girl with three boobs: also not a thing.

You would know this if you used Emergent.


Emergent is a “real-time rumor tracker.”

Built at Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Emergent debunks sketchy online hearsay

As in, the stuff your friends endlessly share on Facebook, Twitter, etc. regarding North Korea, Ebola, ISIS and the like.

Unlike everybody’s favorite urban legend debunker Snopes, Emergent is “focused on rumors that are being reported in the press, and on tracking how they evolve,” says creator Craig Silverman. “We’re also more data-driven.”

Emergent aggregates popular articles from Twitter, RSS feeds and Google alerts. Then, it tracks the central thesis (say, “A meteorite landed in Nicaragua”), looking for subsequent article revisions and new information.

From there, the human editors and Emergent’s data crunching establish a “truthiness scale” for each rumor.  

Some rumors are funny: “Kim Jong Un is ill because he eats too much cheese” (unverified, BTW).

Some are scary, and true (“ISIS beheading of British aid worker Haines”).

In any case, it’s all for the social good.

And for schooling the gullible. Like Dave in accounting.