rbutr is a community driven system which maps links between webpages where the content of one page is a critical response to the other.
ie: URL1 critiques URL2. See a real example here.
Our priority is to build and maintain this database of claim-rebuttal connections so that the connections can be used to fight misinformation and promote critical thinking.
We invite third party collaboration and encourage creative use of the rbutr data in whatever way you wish. Feel free to contact us ( ) if you would like to collaborate and integrate rbutr with your platform/system/application/whatever.
How can this Database be used?
We have developed several prototype applications to demonstrate how these rebuttal connections may be used:
- Browser alerts – Chrome browser extension
- Comment replies – Reddit reply bot
- iFrame on demand – rbutr iFrame
- Browse by topics – rbutr browse page
- Twitter reply widget – Blog announcement
- Facebook news feed integration (coming soon to the Chrome plugin)
Submitting Rebuttals to the Database
The Chrome browser extension is currently the only method for users to add new rebuttals to the system. Making it possible to add rebuttals without using our Chrome extension is a priority for us. We are also eager to partner with organisations who wish to automatically submit quality rebuttals to the rbutr database.
The Philosophy of rbutr
The ultimate goal of rbutr is to improve critical thinking skills and foster a culture of critical thinking in all internet users.
The more immediate, but secondary goals of rbutr are to correct misinformation wherever it is found, reduce the spread of fake news, warn people away from hoaxes and scams, and expose people to arguments and ideas they wouldn’t normally encounter.
To achieve all of these goals rbutr is committed to providing a completely neutral platform which aims to collect all appropriate critiques, corrections and contradictions to any given webpage (or collection of essentially-identical webpages), and work to organise those critiques amongst themselves so that the best are at the top of the list (live example).
rbutr makes no judgements on truth
rbutr gives no regard to whether the rebutted page(s) are true or not, nor whether the rebuttals are true or not. The only requirement is that the ‘rebuttal’ is critical or contrary to the ‘rebutted’ page. With enforcement of this simple rule we can be confident that factually incorrect webpages, hoaxes and scams will tend to be corrected, debunked and exposed, while ‘factually correct’ pages will also be critiqued, and complex issues may be explored in greater detail from multiple perspectives. In the end it is up to the audience to decide what they believe is true or not – as is unavoidably the case regardless.
We believe that our approach is not only ideal in a philosophical sense, but also ideal for technical implementation. It is incredibly simple, naturally resistant to gaming and it increases the impact of high quality critiques.
Our key hypothesis is that continual exposure to high quality critical analyses of all online content will foster a skeptical attitude towards information and improve critical thinking skills as a result of that exposure.
We firmly believe that a culture of critical thinking and a population trained in critical thinking is the key to solving the eternal problems of misinformation, propaganda, fake news and hoaxes.
- Operations began late January 2012
- Some seed funding and support has been provided by the Start-Up Chile program
- Focus over 2012 and 2013 was on establishing a foundation of “true fans” and basic effectiveness of the platform. See: What we have achieved so far
- Life happened during 2014, 2015 and 2016 for Craig and Shane, restricting their ability to actively work on rbutr. The rbutr community remained active the entire time regardless.
- We decided to make rbutr open source and non-profit in 2016. With no funding or active programmer, both of these decisions are still awaiting execution. (We are looking for volunteers and donors)
- 2017 is the year we start fundraising and collaborating with educational institutions, publishing platforms, and fact checking organisations.
|Shane Greenup graduated from the University of NSW in 2005 with majors in Philosophy, Molecular biology (hons) and the History and Philosophy of Science. After graduation he developed a profitable niche website which allowed him to explore multiple entrepreneurial opportunities over the following years, giving him the experience and confidence to found rbutr at the beginning of 2012 with Craig.
Shane is an alumni of the Startup Chile (2012) and IndieBio (2016) accelerator programs, and is a Creative Innovation 2013 scholarship recipient.
|Craig O'Shannessy has over 25 years of experience operating his own software engineering freelance business, which has given him an expertise in software analysis, design, project management and application development.
Another successful solo entrepreneur, Craig's project management and technical expertise is the perfect complement to Shane's Internet marketing experience and visionary drive.
|Thomas "Tom" Lutzenberger is a full stack mid-level web developer from Bavaria, currently living in Switzerland. He loves open source projects and has a keen interest in all technology and the future.
Thomas is actively working on taking the rbutr browser extension Open Source, making the plugin give on-page rebuttal alerts in Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and implementing a range of other critical improvements.
|Sindunuraga Rikarno Putra is currently completing his Master's Degree in Data Science. His main areas of focus are Machine Learning, Data Science, and Web Technologies. He is particularly concerned with the application of software technology on education and learning.
Sindu is developing a social media based rebuttal discovery tool which will be integrated into the rbutr browser extension and iFrame.
|Joseph Thomas-Kerr is a skilled Software Engineer with 10 years experience, working primarily with Java, C#, C/C++ on projects in distributed server design, social networking.
Joe worked on the rbutr iFrame and Reddit reply bot.
|Thomas Warner is currently studying Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. Thomas helped develop, and currently maintains, the Reddit reply bot.|
|Harry Durgin is a successfully retired serial entrepreneur and hacker who joined our team mid 2013 as a full time volunteer developer. His specialties include hardware systems integration, UNIX, database management and interface design.
Harry ported rbutr over to Firefox to create our first Firefox browser extension.
Academic Research Team
|Assistant Professor Nava Tintarev is a Technology Fellow in the Web Information Systems group of the Faculty of Engineering, at the Delft University of Technology. She studies how to best present and adapt the presentation of complex data (using both natural language generation, and visualizations) in artificial advice giving systems.
Nava is working with rbutr in a classroom setting, exploring how rbutr can be used to improve student outcomes and improve critical thinking skills.
|Dr Adrian Holzer is a research associate and the deputy head of the REACT group at EPFL, where he mainly investigates Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) issues in educational and humanitarian contexts.
Adrian is working with us to help design and conduct experiments which will measure rbutr's ability to influence critical thinking and skepticality in Internet users.
Advisors and Advocates
|Dr. Aubrey de Grey is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, the Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, and Author. He received his BA and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and 2000 respectively. His original field was computer science, and he did research in the private sector for six years in the area of software verification before switching to biogerontology in the mid-1990s. (More on Wikipedia)|
|Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptic Society, editor of Skeptic Magazine, columnist at Scientific American, and science writer with over 15 published books behind him. Michael Shermer joined rbutr as an advisor and supporter early August 2012. (More in Wikipedia)|
|Tim Farley is a computer software engineer, writer and instructor with an expertise in computer security and reverse engineering. He is a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation, the creator of the website What's The Harm?, and the owner of the SkepTools blog. (more on Wikipedia)
Tim was one of rbutrs first serious supporters and has written and talked about the value of rbutr as a tool for critical thinking online numerous times since rbutr was started.
Also possible to reach us via twitter: @rbutrcom or @aegist
And also through our facebook page: rbutr