Fact-checking: A realm for multi-stakeholder model?

10 Nov 2020 09:40h - 11:10h

Event report

The rising amount of false information online enhances the importance of fact-checking mechanisms and of the development of a global benchmark of best practices for fact-checking. The session discussed the role of social media, fact-checking organisations, governments, and individuals in fighting misinformation.

An example of an emerging benchmark is the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which includes more than 80 signatories. The code establishes basic norms to guide the work of fact-checking organisations, such as: non-partnership and fairness, transparent standards and clear methodology (e.g. the fact-checker should reveal its sources), and transparency of funding.

Correctiv is an example of a German fact-checking organisation that abides by the code of principles. The organisation performs fact-checks on a broad range of content, such as texts, images, and videos. Ms Alice Echtermann (Acting Head, Correctiv) mentioned that Correctiv is one of the organisations that provides external fact-checking for Facebook, adding warnings to posts that are totally or partially false.

The role of social media platforms in fighting false information was also highlighted. According to Mr Jens Kaessner (Project Leader lelecom & Internet Law, Federal Office of Communications, Switzerland), fact checkers act as ‘goal-keepers’. Before they act, information has already spread online, frequently evoking feelings that are inflammatory, negative, and that can harm democracy. Platforms need to adapt their algorithms and propose automated solutions to amplify truth.

Individuals also bear responsibility when it comes to fact-checking. Mr Charles Mok (Member, Legislative Council, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China) shared the opinion that many people do not want facts to be checked, they are merely looking for information that supports their own positions. The educational system plays a role in providing young people with useful information about the dangers of misinformation and on how to conduct fact-checking. Schools are turning to journalists and fact-checkers for training, but these actors cannot provide capacity building. It is important to train teachers to include these topics in a school curriculum.

A user-centred approach to fact-checking empowers individuals, providing easy to remember entry points for fact-checking. Ms Carina Birarda (Leader of special cybersecurity projects, CSIRT Centro de Ciberseguridad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires Argentina) suggested a series of steps to fact-checking that can be summarised under the acronym AMOR (‘love’ in Spanish):

A: author needs to be verified. Is the name of the author missing?

M: missing information. Does the text include references and sources?

O: one-sided text. Does the text show different sides and a plurality of arguments?

R: reality. Is the text based on real facts?

All panellists agreed that concerted action is required to support fact checkers. Fact-checking organisations should be established in every country and alternative sources of funding need to be identified. For example, platforms could set aside a part of their profits to support independent fact-checkers. Finally, fact-checkers need to be protected from undue pressure from governments and powerful actors responsible for spreading false information.