An Anchor in the Flow of Information – LAWPOL Promotes the Accessibility of Public Knowledge


In the middle of the picture there is a highway on which cars are driving. On the both sides of the picture there are piles of paper.

Picture: Pixabay

In 2013 the Italian programmer Alberto Brandolini described the asymmetry involved in the dissemination of information with his so called ”Brandolini’s Law”: ”The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it.” In other words, generating and spreading misinformation and half-truths, is almost always easier than disproving it. The key issue is not only the accuracy or validity of claims but also their sheer quantity, which can make recognizing reliable information extremely difficult.

Increasingly, today’s political discourse seems like a grand experimental study aiming to prove Brandolini’s hypothesis correct. The abundance of political information enables those making dubious claims to often rely on their errors floating in an ocean of databases, archives, XML files, and Excel tables. A detailed and careful fact-checking process may in the future become a luxury that the hectic nature of daily politics rarely allows.

This challenge is also evident in the massive amount of information produced by the Parliament and other legislative bodies. Regardless of how publicly available the data may be, finding, understanding, accessing, and interpreting it is often a frustrating task—whether for students or citizens interested in politics. A writer working on a thesis or article repeatedly faces the same problem: ”I know such information exists, but where on earth can I find it?” For many, searching for often fragmented data is understandably not worth the effort.

One of the key motivators of the LAWPOL project is to address this problem head-on, acting as an anchor in the ever-growing flow of information: data found under a single portal is easily accessible, but more importantly, it is reliable and of high-quality. The challenge in a democratic information society is not necessarily the availability of information but its accessibility. While the publicity principle and freedom of information meet the former requirement, LAWPOL aims to tackle the latter. This observation also defines the Lakitutka (Lawradar) site, which precedes LAWPOL, and compiles documents related to legislative preparation. Now, the spotlight is directed at the intersection of law and politics.

In an era of increasing polarization and public distrust, the reliability of political information cannot be overstated. For instance, a value and attitude survey conducted by the Confederation of Finnish Industries in autumn 2023 found that nearly 90 percent of Finns believe that simplification, intentional distortion, and lying have become more common in politics. Worryingly, this view has become more widespread in recent years. On the other hand, interest in politics has also risen to 70 percent. It is evident that there is a major demand for reliable political information and fact-based discussion. LAWPOL project aims to meet this demand with its contribution.

The knowledge that false claims can be easily checked by anyone might well raise the bar for making them. In the new user-friendly portal, statements made by decision-makers are not only a few clicks away from being accessed and compared but can also be visualized on one’s own screen. Therefore, our vision is to make LAWPOL known not only as a resource utilized by the research community or the media, but also as a public fact-checking tool. The LAWPOL research infrastructure also provides a means to look below the surface: for example, an AI-based sentiment analysis tool enables the detection of various latent elements from large datasets, revealing evidence of political influencing hidden beneath the depths of the information flow.

As the amount of data increases and information technology advances, Brandolini’s Law of informational asymmetry will become even more tangible in the future, making responding to it a prime example of achieving societal impact. A functioning civil society requires a widely shared epistemology and factual basis, and LAWPOL aims to take a significant step towards achieving this goal.