The 2012 presidential election highlighted how divided the country’s political parties have become. Right, left, liberal or conservative—there’s almost little to no exchange happening between the two sides.
The discourse disheartened Harvard sophomore George Ko and recent Harvard Law School graduate Jonathan Allred, who both saw a media bias that they wanted to eliminate.
“We were disappointed about how our government has turned out,” Ko says. “We wanted to help create a better political environment for generations to come.”
So, they took their frustrations and turned them into Politoscape, a political news aggregator designed to expose bias.
The website started to come together in a Harvard class called The Innovator’s Practice, where the goal is to develop a tangible project that could improve people’s lives and have a real world, measurable impact. Now housed in the Harvard innovation lab, Ko and Allred have brought on students Pulkit Agrawal and Tyler Book to get the website up and running.
Politoscape uses an algorithm to determine where news sources fall in the political landscape and then shows users articles on the opposite side of the spectrum. The goal is to force exploration and give users the ability to form their own conclusions.
“The gatekeepers of the Internet, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, have designed their services so as to only expose users to those views that they’re likely to have,” says Allred in a promotional video. “What this does is create a series of echo chambers where users only see those views that they already agree with, further entrenching them in those views.”
Readers can currently log on to Politoscape, search “Obama,” see what everyone is saying and more easily notice where the biases are.
Politoscape is currently in private beta mode, which Ko says they’re now working the kinks out of. The goal is to launch out of beta around March or April and then create an API that could apply this kind of bias searching into other areas outside of politics.
“We’re not only trying to change things,” Ko says, “but have people come together.”