Fact-checkers plan international organization

The Poynter Institute’s Global Fact-Checking Summit concluded Tuesday with participants voting to start an international association.

The group will build on the progress of the London summit to connect fact-checkers and convene future meetings, said Bill Adair, creator of PolitiFact and the summit’s organizer.

“The meeting showed there is a passionate community of fact-checkers that is growing around the world,” said Adair, a professor at Duke University and an adjunct faculty member at Poynter. “The association will keep the fact-checkers in touch with each other and help them learn from each other.”

Look out, untruths!

“We’re excited about the possibility of The Poynter Institute being the home of the international fact-checking organization, and producing a website that showcases members’ best work and impact on democracies” Poynter President Tim Franklin said. “We’ll now be seeking foundation funding for this important effort.”

Attendees at the summit expressed their support and were eager to start sharing information.

Ukrainian fact-checker Margo Gontar said that before she attended the summit, she thought she was alone in the industry. She did not realize how many journalists are dedicated to the practice of fact-checking, she said.

“It is like I found an umbrella,” said Gontar. “Even if it doesn’t rain, I now know I have support from fact-checkers all over the world. I have people to lean on.”

PolitiFact Editor Angie Holan said an association would be helpful to organize more in-person meetings among fact-checkers. The conversations she had with colleagues during the summit were critical to understanding international efforts, she said.

One hope for the association is that it will create a platform to collect anecdotes of impact, said Adair.

It is difficult to measure the overarching impact of fact-checking, said Jane Elizabeth, Fact-Checking Project Manager at the American Press Institute. The best way to gauge influence is when politicians, media pundits or readers cite a fact-check.

For instance, a politician in Georgia posted an apology on his Facebook page for delivering misinformation and included the GRASS Fact Check link that revealed the false statement.

An Italian site called Pagella Politica presents its fact-checks on a weekly television news segment in addition to regular reporting on its site. The spot reaches about one million viewers.

The Poynter association will create a platform where these examples can be shared, and where fact-checkers can continue the conversations they had at the summit.

During a session on funding and sustainability — a key component to increasing fact-checking globally — attendees shared their funding methods and asked questions about donors.

“We are all furiously taking this down,” said Alexios Mantzarlis from Pagella Politica, laughing while participants scribbled notes.

A common disagreement between fact-checkers is whether sites should use a rating system, such as PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter.

Will Moy, Director of British site Full Fact, said “we live in a gray world” that is too complex to simply rate claims as True or False.

“There is something inherently dodgy about a rating system,” said Moy.

Adair disagreed. He said rating systems respected the reader’s time and served to summarize in-depth journalism.

For others, like Peter Cunliffe-Jones of Africa Check, the jury is still out. Cunliffe-Jones said he wants to assign a rating but is hesitant to use terms like True and False.

This is a conversation that is sure to be continued after the summit, said Adair.

Related: At fact-checking summit, ‘We hope courage is contagious’ (Poynter) | 8 tips for fact-checking from PolitiFact (journalism.co.uk)

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