Here’s how American fact-checkers are covering the midterm elections

November 1, 2018

Reporters buckle down for another U.S. election

It’s not 2016. But fact-checking the lead up to the United States’ midterm elections on Tuesday hasn’t been easy, either.

According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, at least seven Republican politicians have misused one of its fact checks about preexisting conditions on the campaign trail. American fact-checkers have been stretched thin in their effort to monitor President Donald Trump’s press appearances, rallies and tweets. And, with key races in at least 16 states, sites like PolitiFact have been pulling out all the stops to track misinformation.

On Wednesday, the (Poynter-owned) fact-checking site published a roundup of the top 10 storylines of the midterms. Each topic includes a link to claims that PolitiFact has already fact-checked to map common themes about the election. Among the most common talking points include:

Meanwhile, while it’s still unclear to what extent fake news stories, doctored photos and conspiracies are affecting voters — they’re showing up in numbers and reporters are already busy debunking them. Here’s some of the work that’s been done so far:

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate in front of his residence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

This is how we do it

  • On the weekend of the Brazilian election, six fact-checking sites worked together to debunk 50 pieces of misinformation in 48 hours.
  • Speaking of Brazil, collaborative fact-checking project Comprova received more than 65,000 tips on WhatsApp and published more than 150 reports in the lead-up to the election.
  • Here are the winners of this year’s African Fact-Checking Awards.

This is bad

  • The Associated Press deleted a tweet that uncritically reported a false claim from U.S. President Donald Trump. This was notable, but Alexios feels like we’re stuck on repeat.
  • In the week before Brazil’s presidential election, rumors, fake news stories and doctored photos made the rounds on social media. Daniel analyzed some of the top hoaxes on WhatsApp.
  • A fake story about IKEA went viral on Twitter after a Twitter employee shared it. Oh, and the article was promoted in an ad, which is a violation of the company’s policies but happens quite frequently.
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This is fun

A closer look

  • PBS has a two-part documentary on how Facebook got to where it is now. Part 2 includes interviews with Andrew Anker and Tessa Lyons, central to the social network’s fact-checking partnership. Also, Maria Ressa of Rappler and many others.
  • We updated our guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world. New to the list: Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Bellingcat’s Aric Toler investigated a fake intelligence agency behind a smear campaign against U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller. Though this attempt was foiled, some are worried the trend of trying to fool journalists into publishing fakes is growing.

If you read one more thing

“Isn’t fact-checking just good journalism?” is a question fact-checkers get a lot. Thread.

13 quick fact-checking links

  1. One of Jair Bolsonaro’s first fact-checked claims as a president-elect was a falsehood about Brazil’s military dictatorship.
  2. Twitter helped surface false flag conspiracy theories about pipe bombs sent to U.S. Democratic leaders and news organizations.
  3. Brooke Binkowski, formerly the managing editor of Snopes, has a new job at Truth or Fiction.
  4. CJR took over a newsstand in Manhattan to teach people about misinformation.
  5. Teyit turned two years old and announced Gülin Çavuş is stepping up as editor in chief.
  6. Speaking of Teyit, the fact-checking site has started publishing its Slack messages debating specific fact checks.
  7. PolitiFact’s Angie Holan was on Marketplace to talk about fact-checking the midterms.
  8. From this Planet Money report on the Chinese social credit score: You can lose points if you spread misinformation.
  9. Fake medical exemptions are being sold in Facebook Groups.
  10. Misinformation is on the rise but at least our maps are less fake than they used to be?
  11. Trushar Barot will move from the BBC to Facebook.
  12. Fact-checkers from the region are meeting in Antalya, Turkey. Follow along at #FCST18.
  13. Please apply to be our colleague.

Until next week,

Daniel and Alexios