Fact-Checking by Media or Civil Society

Fact-checking conducted by independent actors is a common activity around the election process. It is implemented to monitor, verify and publish assessments regarding the veracity of statements made by the various parties involved in an election. While fact-checking has numerous important facets, there are reportedly limitations to its ability to correct false beliefs. It should be seen first and foremost as an accountability tool and complemented with other activities to comprehensively support a healthy information ecosystem.



What is probably the most common activity in combatting information integrity concerns is fact-checking as conducted by independent parties. Fact-checkers seek primary and reputable sources that can confirm or negate claims made to the public, and their efforts often take place in the framework of partnerships between NGOs, media outlets and academics. The goal is to hold politicians and other public figures accountable for the truthfulness of their statements.


What are important considerations prior to the initiation of the activity?

  • The presence of other actors already conducting such activities will likely influence decisions. While the existence of other fact-checking organizations does not mean there is no space for further initiatives, depending on the implementing actor, they may choose to support existing organizations in a variety of ways.
  • Appropriate and experienced team members should be identified to lead and coordinate the effort. Skills typically required of such a team include: experience with fact-checking, an understanding of the technologies available and an ability to find ways to disseminate corrections widely.
  • If not yet existent, effective fact-checking requires a verification methodology, which will need to be developed, and the actors involved will need to be trained on it. Generally, capacity-building in the form of trainings with relevant training materials could be prepared, informed by the needs.
  • To facilitate the process of fact-checking, tools and techniques exist such as reverse image search or video verification to check whether an image or video has been previously published online. Relevant tools and techniques may be identified, and a toolbox may be prepared to facilitate the fact-checkers in their verification process.
  • Prior to roll-out, a number of materials may be prepared including:
    • An information pollution data-set with key words/search strings and media channels to follow.
    • A counter-messaging/debunking data-set with potential narratives and easily adjustable ‘tiles’, i.e. easily shareable images or catch-phrases that can debunk common false narratives to be expected in different phases of the election cycle.
    • Communication materials.
  • Other considerations include the facilitation of the verification of the social media handles of the fact-checking organizations.


Who is best placed to implement the activity?  

  • Fundamental to the success of any fact-checking exercise is the impartiality of the implementing organization—both in function and perception.
  • The identification and availability of an appropriate fact-checking organization will depend in large part upon the context. In many instances there may already be entities working on fact-checking—in such cases support may be provided in the form of financial support to ramp up capacity, training on election-specific-related issues, further professionalization and assistance in establishing effective networks, for example.
  • In cases where no suitable organization is already conducting similar tasks, other entities may be well placed to assume such tasks—for example human rights or media/ technology civil society organizations (CSOs) or journalist networks.
  • In other contexts, fact-checking organizations may be established from scratch. The establishment of new organizations can be done in various ways, for example organically by the provision of trainings or more directly by an interested party recruiting individuals and providing funding.


How to ensure context specificity and sensitivity?

  • The types of media to be monitored will vary depending upon the country. Each type will impose different operational requirements. Prior to initiation, a mapping of relevant media outlets and sources to follow will be beneficial. The development of a database with key words to look out for, including to feed into any potential tools that may be used, will prove helpful.
  • Having a body whose composition is broadly representative of the country will increase its capacity to interpret and respond effectively.
  • Protection requirements for implementing partners in the field should be considered given the sensitivity of the subject matter and the subjects of critique.


How to ensure inclusive programming, including youth and gender sensitivity?

  • A broadly representative fact-checking organization is more likely able to identify and assess the widest spectrum of problematic content.
  • Involving youth in the composition of fact-checking organizations is expected to support the effectiveness and dynamism of the activity, and their involvement may further contribute to enhancing media literacy and digital literacy among the youth involved.
  • Gender parity in the composition of fact-checking organizations is likely to lead to more gender-responsive priorities and insights. Furthermore, the propensity for online attacks to target women candidates and officials reinforces this need. Given the context and the target issues the organization is looking to address, it might even consider purely addressing gender-related topics.


How to communicate about these activities?  

The reach of ‘fact-checks’ is key to the activity’s success. It is unusual for these organizations to gather a significant public following, and so finding other ways to expand the reach of their findings is vital. These can include sponsored posts through Google/Facebook ads for example, relationships with larger media institutions, relationships with platforms, relationships with bloggers and influencers, the creation of dedicated radio programmes and the organization of community town halls.


How to coordinate with other actors/which other stakeholders to involve? 

  • Typically, there will be more than one fact-checking organization operating at the same time. Having a diversity of organizations can be helpful in providing a multiplicity of approaches to the challenge and bringing a greater number of resources to bear. However, collaboration between initiatives can be mutually beneficial. Options can include alignment on dissemination of corrections, pooling of corrections, common technology platforms or advocacy arrangements.
  • As highlighted, fact-checking is a valuable activity, yet it will likely prove insufficient unless complemented by additional activities that aim to contribute to a healthy information landscape. Implementers of fact-checking initiatives may themselves either be involved in other, related activities such as pre-bunking or can decide to work closely with other actors engaged in these types of activities, possibly feeding them with data on which to base the development of pre-bunking strategies.
  • Furthermore, given that monitoring media to identify potential harmful content to fact-check will prove to be a hugely time-consuming task, fact-checkers may coordinate and work closely with other actors such as networks of journalists or even the population at large to identify content to verify. Beyond sharing the fact-checked content, additional response strategies may be implemented in coordination, depending on the type of response required. This may range from media information literacy programmes as a preventive measure, to content moderation as a responsive tool in coordination with platforms or media commissions, which are often the mandated institutions to request content removal.
  • Coordination efforts between independent fact-checkers and EMBs may be valuable, as EMBs can either flag problematic content and request an independent verification or further liaise with the fact-checking organization to understand what the main election-related narratives are that require either a one-off response in the form of a pre-bunk (i.e. press conference or statement) or to feed into short- to long- term voter-education efforts. In turn, fact-checking organizations may benefit from a direct line of communication with the EMB around elections, such that they can easily receive the latest information to base their verifications on.
  • The fact-checkers may also seek to communicate directly with the source of the inaccuracies and to obtain clarifications, and potentially they may have the sources themselves correct the record. While this may be difficult, and in some cases impossible, research shows that corrections from the source are most impactful.


How to ensure sustainability?

  • Given the periodic nature of elections and the continuous nature of information integrity issues, fact-checking organizations are of value irrespective of the electoral calendar.
  • With sufficient professionalization leading to International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) certification, fact-checking networks may be able to access funding from social media platforms for their work.



While it is difficult to truly advise upon costings without a clear vision of a particular project, some factors to consider include:
Experts – Experts may be required to advise upon the design of the fact checking programme, its parameters, workflows, etc. They may also be required to support with capacity-building of partners, how to use the technology and coaching of delivery, at least through the initial phases. Depending on the partner’s capacity, additional expertise may be required for more in-depth reviews of online patterns or attribution. If an outside firm is required, this may be costly.
Technology – A software solution may be required to organize the work and to inspect potentially problematic content on social media (or other media). Not all software for this purpose is created equal, and its ability to be customised, to access data from a wide variety of sources and to accurately flag contentions information while also providing features to support the efficacy of fact-checkers are some items to pay attention to when determining an appropriate solution. Some work may be required to configure the system to the requirements of the specific partner, and this may also carry additional cost.
Hosting may be required for the software, and how this is valued over the long term may be a consideration. The solution may be cloud-based or designed to be hosted on local infrastructure—both of which have various cost and security implications. This may include the need to modify and deploy software to organize work, provide hardware, recruit staff to review the content and analyse outcomes, and conduct trainings and monitoring.
Distribution – Having funds available to promote online content may be required to increase the visibility of key fact-checks. Design capabilities may help to convey information in a more effective fashion.


  • As discussed before, the publishing of ‘fact-checks’ may not address the underlying beliefs that the information pollution has created. There is some evidence that fact-checking can even further spread the false information that it is seeking to debunk. However, this risk is outweighed by the various benefits and depends to a large extent on how the debunk is presented. There are several debunking methods. Common advice at present is the use of ‘truth sandwiches’ that place discussion of the misinformation between facts relevant to it. Lakoff’s truth sandwich is deceptively simple but useful: it ensures that the truth is repeated more than a piece of misinformation, and only refers to misinformation in the context of better information.
  • Debunks may need to be presented in multiple languages to increase reach.
  • The attainment of International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) certification is a key predicator of a successful fact-checking exercise. This is typically a prerequisite to secure access to certain APIs (data feeds from platforms) and to have a privileged relationship with particular platforms. Furthermore, it can lead to funding. However, achieving such certification is complex and can take well over a year.


First Draft News

First Draft News formed as a nonprofit coalition with nine founding partners in June 2015, providing practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify, and publish content sourced from the social web. While it closed its doors with its mission continuing at the Information Futures Lab, an initiative from the Brown University School of Public Health the former website continues to contain excessive training content with online courses, toolkits and resources designed to help journalists and the general public to address misinformation



iVerify is a UNDP’s automated fact-checking tool that can be used to identify false information and prevent and mitigate its spread. It is supported through the UNDP Chief Digital Office and the UNDP Brussels-based Task Force on Electoral Assistance. iVerify is also a Digital Public Good and can be found in the DPG Registry. iVerify provides national actors with a support package to enhance identification, monitoring and response capacity to threats to information integrity. iVerify includes digital tools, capacity building modules, partnership opportunities, and communication and outreach strategies amongst others and has been implemented in Zambia, Honduras, Kenya and Liberia.

Projeto Comprova Brazil

Projeto Comprova is a collaborative, non-profit initiative that brings together journalists from 43 Brazilian media outlets to discover and investigate suspicious information about public policies, presidential elections and the covid-19 pandemic that was shared on social media or via messaging apps.


La República presents its Verificador data verification unit, in charge of preparing articles based on data verification techniques (fact-checking) and on the discrediting of false virals (debunking).

Another collaborative fact-checking initiative in Peru is called Ama llulla

Ecuador Verifica

Verifica is a coalition that brings together the media, CSOs and universities, with the aim of verifying political discourse and promoting transparency in public institutions. In addition, this coalition set itself the objectives of developing tools that allow citizens to make decisions, based on accurate information during the electoral stage, and contributing to the development of a transparent and decisive process for democracy. Ecuador Verifica has the support of international cooperation organizations committed to the fight against disinformation, such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which, in coordination with numerous diverse organizations, the media and academia, come together to offer tools that can differentiate what is true from what is false.


This collaborative network has participants from 21 countries, from more than 30 organizations, who work on information checking projects in Latin America. This project generates checks and verifications on the most common misinformation that circulates about COVID-19 in different formats; resources for journalists with advice to check the veracity of what circulates; and proposed classroom activities for interested teachers. There are also recommendations for governments and other institutions and a special section for influencers and content creators, so as not to inadvertently share disinformation.

FactCheck Gambia

FactCheck is The Gambia’s only indigenous and first independent digital fact-checking platform. FactCheck Gambia seeks to close the palpable market gap for an independent, non-partisan fact-checking programme in The Gambia. This initiative comes at a time when the growing menace of information disorder is gradually undermining trust in the Gambian media and the country’s burgeoning democracy.





Information Integrity E-learning

Coming soon