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 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.
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.
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 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
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 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.