Giving a Voice


I came across Nazanin for the first time tonight, a beautiful, young British-Iranian wife and mother from London sitting in Ivan prison. I do not for a minute believe finding Nazanin to be an accident. I tasked myself tonight with my first blog post to launch TruthSetter’s mission into the blogosphere. Why is TruthSetter here? Why do we exist? Nazanin. We exist for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I sat down to write doing a quick google search of the most obvious first amendment antithesis entering the search terms “Iranian Women Journalists”.  A picture of this beautiful woman with a magnanimous smile, her infant daughter Gabrielle and their story filled my screen. That smile telling me we could easily be friends if given the chance. My search netted Nazanin’s husband’s interview dated today given in New York with the Center for Human Rights in Iran where he campaigned for his wife before the UN General Assembly. TruthSetter exists for Nazanin’s voice and all the voices like hers who have been silenced in oppressive regions and corners of the world where freedom of press is a luxury out of reach. For those marginalized people groups who live every day without a voice, voices stripped from them by those who are in power, TruthSetter exists. In a world of misinformation and fact manipulation, TruthSetter gives voice to those who cannot speak otherwise.  For those fortunate, TruthSetter affords the tangible means to protect and celebrate the voices we do have in our cherished democratic societies.

TruthSetter exists to give freedom of the press to all people. In America where freedom is accustomed this will mean something entirely different than to a woman sitting in a jailcell in Ivan prison for visiting family in Tehran showing off her beautiful baby to her parents, proud of her Iranian heritage.  Nazanin’s story began with the Iranian Nuclear Deal giving her false impressions Iran, the country she grew up in, the country she loved from childhood, finally was safe once again. Safe to do what all women across the world want to do after giving birth to a precious child – go on holiday to show that child off to the ones she loves most – her family. When the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence Organization stripped Nazanin’s newly weaned 22-month-old baby girl from her arms while awaiting to board a flight home to her beloved husband in Britain, she learned safe Iran was a façade, a dangerous mirage. Nazanin’s alleged crime, for which she could not speak at her own trial, nor receive counsel for 130 days, and for which she has spent the last 18 months in prison, some of those in solitary confinement, was allegedly “working against national interests”. The assumption because the charges have never been stated outright are due to a free woman, wife and mother living in London and on travel to her homeland had spent time working for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters Foundation, this charity work posing a “national security threat”.

Instead of returning to her expectant husband in the UK after her holiday visiting her parents and showing them the baby in person that made them grandparents, Nazanin was taken to Ivan prison and her daughter confiscated. The same prison pastor Saeed Abedini escaped as part of the Iranian Nuclear Deal that made Nazanin feel so safe, her perceived security proven false.   Her husband shared, “Many Iranians want to just be normal, to go visit their family, and be proud of Iran, of all it is and all it could be. And she was sort of hopeful about the nuclear deal, thinking everyone can finally see what a great country Iran is.” Instead, Nazanin is left to sadly wonder, “how can you pick me out and create all these lies.”

In America, TruthSetter’s mission for freedom of the press for all people means fighting deliberate misinformation propagated by foreign entities. Most notorious, Russia. Breaking tonight, Russia purchased $100,000 in Facebook ads and created innumerable fake twitter accounts during the election to fan racial fury and create dissension within our own democratic borders in an attempt to play electoral espionage. Russia studied our culture wars and played our politics against us using our own social media tools as tactile weapons, bots as their agents. Less than a decade ago, this scenario could have been a futuristic, blow your mind, Tom Clancy New York Times best-selling thriller. In America, with TruthSetter, “freedom of the press for all people” can now mean collaborating in a real-time, online, open, and diverse community holding journalists and the media companies they work for accountable to Poynter’s journalistic common code of ethics. TruthSetter is the only fully crowd-sourced platform giving real Americans a true voice and an effectual method to combat fake news, whether Russian bought or via sinister agitators within our news and social media constructs who are firmly invested in creating and spreading fake news to bolster ratings equating to dollars. TruthSetter allows individuals to fully utilize their first amendment rights to highlight and vote on the misinformation propagating our newsfeeds and social media worlds, collaborating together to push Truth forward. No matter your race, no matter your background, no matter your beliefs, be a TruthSetter and defend this freedom with every fiber of your being, and while doing so remember Nazanin. Her husband shares, “… campaigning has been good for me. It has given me a way of telling her story, feeling like I’m doing something. I am sure campaigning is the best way to get her home. Campaigning is the only way we can say this is wrong, things have to change. Out of respect for Iran, I’m telling you [Iran], this is wrong. I’m not bluffing, I’m not lying and Nazanin should be immediately released.” Read Nazanin’s full story and her husband’s interview here.

Technology is close to my husband’s heart and giving a voice to those without one is close to mine. He advises on everything technical, and I run the vision for the impact I want TruthSetter to have in the world. The combination makes for the perfect marriage.  Visit us and become a TruthSetter today.

Embrace Your Bias!

Guess what? According to Wikipedia there are over 184 cognitive biases! What is a bias? It “refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion”. In other words your experiences and memories greatly affect your day to day thoughts. Seems intuitive and it is. Every single experience, especially those when you are young mold your biases. Some people have memory biases while others have confirmation biases. Whatever the reason for bias or the type of bias doesn’t matter here–because we are here to crush bias. Because bias is so prevalent we can only reduce its impacts on the decisions that people make. Ever heard of “fake news”? I covered this in a previous post, but “fake news”, misinformation, disinformation, and deception are all forms of bias IF they are unintentional. Let me say that again–if something is truly fake news, but the author did not intend for it to be then it is likely the result of bias by the author.


For all you naysayers that believe that misinformation is conveniently created by politicians to avoid media scrutiny–false! Misinformation (a.k.a. Fake News) always existed, but was rarely measured and the ability to publish information and have large numbers of readers view it was never so easy as it is today. Until authors are all robots (careful, we may get there soon) we will continue to experience the impacts of bias. Bias lingers around our news and information like a bad perfume! Why can’t we train people so that they aren’t biased? Because authors of information are human and we are flawed. Many have heard the statistic regarding body language and communications–experts say that 65% of communication is non-verbal. The amazing thing about non-verbal communication is that it is often completely invisible to the person doing it. A similar effect exists with bias–not only is bias difficult to observe, but it is nearly invisible to the person doing it.

A study observed people with above average intelligence and gave the individuals what they believed to be accurate information on a stereotype. The people were told that the likelihood of a particular stereotype is very low, but because bias or associative thinking is so powerful the probability that the individuals selected the stereotype increased to 50%. To put this into perspective if you were told that 1 in 10 farmers wore cowboy hats (10%) and you had a bias towards farmers–the probability you would identify a person with a cowboy hat to be a farmer would be 50%. Seem far-fetched? There are multiple studies on bias that prove this psychological phenomenon.

In summary, no matter what one thinks or says everyone is biased in some way. TruthSetter helps to reduce bias for many types of information including news articles, blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, website pages. Text or images can be posted to TruthSetter and fact-checked. TruthSetter uses algorithms that help to identify the appropriate number of votes that greatly reduce the impacts of bias. If you can’t beat the bias you might as well join it!

What is Fake News?

The term “fake news” holds many meanings to many people. For some, fake news is news or content that in its entirety is satire or hoax. For others fake news is a label for news, blogs or editorials in which only portion of the content is inaccurate or misleading. Finally, some call fact-checked news fake because they don’t agree with it. is the first platform that allows for true civil discourse for all forms of fake news.


Of course, if the intent of the author is for the content they are creating to be false and there is some benefit to the author its likely the content is satire content. Examples of satire content are available on sites like The Onion. Satire content is entirely false and often sensational, spread or hyped through social media, often Twitter or Facebook. Satire content can be flagged easily in the TruthSetter platform by simply adding an article from the home page and then selecting the “flag” for satire. Confirmation is still required by other authorized users.


An article that is a hoax is entirely fake just like satire, but its intent is to deliberately mislead the reader into thinking that it is real or factual news. Again, similar to satire, one can make money on hoaxes through click-through and other forms of online advertising. Hoaxes are the most popular forms of fake news on the Internet today since people are able to profit from spreading them.

News Mistakes or Errors

Another type of “fake news” is simple errors. The term fake is often expressed when the news is deliberately misleading. However, simple errors like names, addresses, ages, titles, places, and other forms of errors are often published. A study in 2005 by Dr. Scott R. Maier found that “61% of local news and feature stories [were inaccurate] and is among the highest reported [inaccuracies] in nearly seventy years of accuracy research”.  He cited many reasons including “newspaper reporters, though more highly educated and professional, are perhaps stretched thin by staff reductions and other pressures brought on by media consolidation and Wall Street profit demands. Copy editors, the last line of defense against newspaper errors, could be missing mistakes as production demands impede careful review of articles before they go to press.” Whatever the reason news reporters are human and not immune to mistakes.

Anonymous Sources

Another argument for fake news is the prevalence of anonymous or unnamed sources. In Matt Duffy’s 2014 paper he explains how journalistic norms have changed and analysis “suggests that abandoning the independent verification requirement is counterproductive for the profession.” Other policy changes over time reflect a change in ethics, “while earlier journalism textbooks and codes of ethics required that information from unnamed sources be corroborated, most of the sources in this study eventually dropped this requirement. None of the primary or secondary sources consulted for this study noted this significant change of standards.”

Misleading or Sensational News

Finally, the most difficult news to both identify and fact-check is based on misleading or sensational content. In 2017, news titles drive page views and the story behind the story is more important than the content in the story. Driven by ratings and unique visitor page views the large news organizations must compete with a growing number of individual distributors and content creators. It is difficult to compete with an individual or group that might not follow recognized journalistic ethics. I believe this is root of the changes that Matt Duffy refers to in his paper. This ethical slide promises a day when the  story is more important than the facts.  I will back up this premise in my next blog. Stay tuned…and until then keep reviewing.