Fact check dot huh?

by Uche Ogbuji

During last night's vice presidential debate Dick Cheney pleaded exoneration by third-party neutral on the topic of Halliburton. "Go to factcheck.com" he said. Oops. He actually meant www.factcheck.org, an independent Web site run by the Annenberg foundation. Side note: this is a superb site, even though I sometimes disagree with their editorialization. FactCheck.org and The Electoral Vote Predictor are the two neutral sites on which I spend the most political-fretting time.

We all know about the whitehouse.com/whitehouse.gov muddle, but this most recent TLD mix-up has more political consequence. After all, regardless of what anyone thought of Clinton's libidinousness, they probably didn't seriously hold the impression that he might be a big time porno capo on the down low. In this case, Cheney's mistake sends people (through one redirect) to a Web site run by George Soros, with the top-level caption "Why we must not re-elect Predisent Bush", continuing with a headline in similar large print saying "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values.". Errr. Oops.

And now for a bit of fictional political intrigue. What if factcheck.com had not been owned by a man who has more money than even the Bush clan? What if it were a lowly site for helping high school teachers grade student essays? I'm sure the Bush/Cheney spin slickers dropped their jaws when they realized the error (and that Edwards/Kerrey spin slickers were doing a jig). What if they swooped in to buy out factcheck.com to point to a pro-Bush site? What if, in a Moore-Stone-sized conspiracy they decided ask the NSA to taint the DNS root servers to "fix" the matter for them?

Nothing of the sort, of course, was toward in this particular case, but it does make one think about possibly explosive effects of combining the precision of Internet architecture with the usual truth allergy of politics. These days candidates try flexing ostensible 'net savvy by buying up hundreds of variations of "joe-incumbent-sucks.com" in the wan hope that anyone would actually type in such a domain name looking for information. Imagine what they might get up to if they actually knew the first thing about technology? Ask biological and environmental scientists what happens when politicians try chugging a yard-bong of Pieirian spring water (for those who never went to a college in the US, a "yard-bong" is a ridiculously large quantity of beer arranged for consumption in a ridiculously short span of time).

Seriously, though, the saddest thing about TLD mix-ups such as as this one is that they encourage people to do the land-grab of every concievable TLD whenever they make a domain purchase (and commercial reigstrars are only too eager to encourage this). Let's hope one of the campaigns does't react with a buy order for all domains matching ".*(fact|bush|kerrey|elect).*\..*". Then again, let's hope they do. There would be a blog-burner topic.

What Internet facts have you seen in dire need of checking with respect to politics?


2004-10-06 09:57:07
You should see this. I was also mistaken about the address about www.factcheck.com when it should be www.factcheck.org.
Yoyu should see what happens when you type in www.factcheck.com think you will get an unbiased web page. Well you are immediately directed to this: http://www.georgesoros.com/
where the heading for the page says ->President Bush is endangering our safty....
George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, is beginning a nationwide tour this week to talk about how the war in Iraq is making America less safe.

What an idiot!!!

Fast moving on getting this website to spread more proaganda.

2004-10-06 11:06:32
DNS poisoning
A pedantic update to your conspiracy scenario: no amount of NSA fiddling with the DNS root servers (which are operated by multiple organizations, under ICANN's supervision) would help the factcheck.com foulup. Rather, to hijack the name server information for factcheck.com, you would need to go to the GTLD servers for .com, which are all operated by VeriSign.

I have no particular opinion on whether that makes such a scenario more or less difficult to execute; just clarifying the details.

2004-10-06 12:01:55
DNS poisoning
Dude. "clarifying the details"? DId you miss that we're in Moore-Stone conspiracy country (where stealth UN Black Choppers rule the skies)? All you've done is muddy up the waters 'cause no publisher would wanna buy any such story after it's gone through the fact-checker.

IOW, it was a joke, and I thought pretty clearly labelled as such. I know very well how the DNS infrastructure works, and I expect most readers do as well.



2004-10-06 12:09:25
Just in case
Anyone else wants to take me too seriously, Let me clarify that I know it would be impossible to make 'a buy order for all domains matching ".*(fact|bush|kerrey|elect).*\..*"'. Infinite potential matches and all that.

But it sure would be fun to watch a campaign try :-)


2004-10-06 12:25:10
ownership of factcheck.com
It must be noted that Soros does not own factcheck.com. AP reports today that the owner of factcheck.com redirected their site to georgesoros.com after the debate and without Soros' knowledge. They did this to avoid having to pay for the huge number of hits they were getting and to make a political statement. They did not want to redirect to a site that asks for money (like johnkerry.com), so they chose a site owned by someone who has plenty of money.
2004-10-06 12:44:28
ownership of factcheck.com
This is a very useful fact check. Thanks. The best links I found were:


Do you happen to have a different link?

Of interest, a message in this blog entry does say:

"Factcheck.com was indeed an advertisement for on-line degrees, right up until Cheney said it in the debate.

"Around 10:20 pm, it all of a sudden started redirecting to George Soros' site.

"Factcheck.org is still getting hit heavy. And all of the Bush/Cheney BIG time lies are in there."

Re that last para. Hmm. I'd always assumed factcheck.org was non-partisan. For example, they were pretty hard on the SWIFT boat nonsense. And they don't exonerate Cheney on Halliburton the way he implied they do. Seems hard core dems don't want to hear the dispassionate facts any more than hard core repubs.

Looks as if this story is all over the place. I've always frequented factcheck.org, so I immediately noticed the flub when Cheney made it. I haven't able to access factcheck.org all morning ("Slashdotted", I guess) but I've been told their top story is a fact check of the Veep candidates' debate, including a mention of the Cheney gaffe.

Talk about a barrel of monkeys...


2004-10-07 00:09:42
moore money than Bush?
I can name 2 with ease:
The 2 Johns who so claim to be the average American with their $1000 haircuts and $500 million yearly incomes, John Kerry and John Edwards.
2004-10-07 07:38:24
moore money than Bush?
You must not have read what I wrote at all. I wrote:

"In this case, Cheney's mistake sends people (through one redirect) to a Web site run by George Soros...

"...What if factcheck.com had not been owned by a man who has more money than even the Bush clan?"

All I was saying (obviously) was that Soros has more money than the Bush clan. When I wrote that I was not aware that Soros does not own factcheck.com (see the comment just before yours). As it happens, my buy-out faux consiracy theory could have panned out if they'd got to the cheeky factcheck.com owner before he redirected to georgesoros.com.

Anyway, I was never making a point about the relative lucre pile of the various candidates. That is IMO a ridiculous comparison since most Presidential candidates have been obscenely rich. To most who have a four figure net worth, and even professionals who might tend towards a five figure net worth, the question of how a candidate's closeness to the common man is affected based on whether he has a seven or nine figure net worth is venal and idle. You talk about the mote in one's eye (expensive haircuts?), but do you really think examination of spending of the other would not reveal some profligate beam in his eye? Let's not be silly. Rich people spend money richly. Wot's new?

The point of my article is non-partisan. It was about the hilarity that always ensues when a politico of any stripe rubs too closely against our corner of high tech (c.f. Al Gore's claim to have taken the initiative to create the Internet). Cheney lovers, do just count to ten, and remember that all this came about because of your own man's gaffe. No one else to blame.