June 23, 2018

ROME — More than 200 people from 56 countries gathered at the St. Stephen's School in Rome from Wednesday to Friday this week for the fifth annual Global Fact-Checking Summit.

During the three-day conference hosted by the International Fact-Checking Network, fact-checkers, academics, technologists and other experts will convene to exchange best practices and learn more about the fight against misinformation. Topics run the gamut from reaching out to skeptical audiences and Russian disinformation to debunking hoaxes on messaging apps and fact-checking during a humanitarian crisis.

Of course, not everyone who’s interested in fact-checking can be in Rome this week. That’s why, throughout Global Fact, Poynter and a three-student team from St. Stephen’s will be publishing notable tips and takeaways to this live blog, which will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Check out all the sessions here, and follow @factchecknet and #GlobalFactV to join the conversation.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 

Day 1

“Five years ago, no one was doing conferences on fact-checking. Today, everyone is," Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, said during his opening remarks at Global Fact.

That fitting intro gave way to a day full of show-and-tells, panels and small group meetings about fact-checking and how to combat misinformation. Below are some takeaways from the day, broken up by talk. Learn more about the panels here.

Opening remarks

  • Poynter is now creating fact-checking programs for middle and high school students in order to help them be able to differentiate between fact and fiction, President Neil Brown said.
  • The gender ratio of leadership in fact-checking is more equal than in other parts of the media. Almost two out of five IFCN verified signatories have a female editor or director, Mantzarlis said.
  • There are now 149 active fact-checking projects around the globe, Duke Reporters' Lab co-director Bill Adair said. (Disclosure: The Reporters' Lab helps pay for Global Fact.)
  • The Reporters' Lab has now expanded its FactStream app to compile fact checks from (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact, Factcheck.org and The Washington Post Fact Checker all the time — not just during live events

Formats, Impact & Research

  • In order to reach out to skeptical audiences, PolitiFact traveled to three U.S. states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. It also fact-checked 54 local claims in Alabama, West Virginia and Oklahoma. “We don’t do a good enough job, probably, of explaining how we do what we do,” said Aaron Sharockman, executive director of PolitiFact.
  • Sharockman said his team could try to do something like this again, and that the entire project had three main takeaways:
    • It was resource-intensive for a small staff
    • The actual fact-checking work is more difficult on a local level
    • It had more impact in local markets
  • Maldito Bulo uses an app to distribute its debunks to mobile phone users, said Clara Jiménez Cruz, founder of the fact-checking project — an easy, straightforward and viral process. It also publishes photos and videos to reach a larger audience on platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram.
  • Facebook conducted original research to figure out what users think when they encounter a debunk on the platform. The aim was to figure out what was going well for them and what was not, said Grace Jackson, a UX researcher at Facebook. (Disclosure: Being a signatory of the IFCN's code of principles is a necessary condition for Facebook's fact-checking partnership.)
  • What Jackson said she found was that, since people often scroll really quickly and get distracted while using Facebook, they often make incorrect assumptions about posts — particularly those that had been labeled as fact checks. So they tweaked the feature slightly to include ratings in headlines and a "fact-checker" badge.

Russian disinformation: Pervasive or NBD?

  • Anna Zafesova of La Stampa talked about Russian disinformation, how Russians view it as normal and how wars and other historical events gave way to it. She identified a key problem: Russians think other countries are lying while they think Russia is lying. “The very nature of truth starts to disappear,” she said.
  • When Russian President Vladimir Putin goes on TV and says there are no Russian troops in Ukraine when they're clearly are, he's saying that truth doesn't matter, said Peter Pomerantsev of the London School of Economics and Political Science. "They don’t even try to make it look real — they don’t particularly care if it’s false," he said.
  • Glenn Kessler, who runs The Washington Post Fact Checker, said that since Russian disinformation never really stops, it can be hard for fact-checkers to keep up. But what they're doing isn't really unique — Pomerantsev said that most public relations companies employ the same strategies during marketing campaigns.
  • Most Russians get their news from TV, so that's where foreign journalists should focus their efforts when combatting misinformation, said Liepa Želnienė of 15min.

    Brace for the Coming Fake Videogeddon (or Not)

    • Computer graphics can perform visually plausible live edits to someone's appearance in video, said Christian Reiss of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. One example is Face2Face, which re-renders a speaker with another person’s facial expression.
    • Reiss said researchers can use machine learning techniques to detect manipulated videos, but that can be thwarted depending on the quality of the video. Denis Teyssou of the Agence France-Presse said the InVid browser plugin is one good way to do that by running a reverse image search on keyframes.
    • When it comes to detecting deepfake videos, tools are great, but classic fact-checking is still a good place to start, Teyssou said. Look for not-so-subtle alterations to the subject's face and do a Google search to see if the video has been covered by mainstream outlets.
    • Reiss said he thinks deepfakes were an expected form of misinformation. But he said that the technology is still fairly rudimentary and they're limited to a very specific set of cases — because making a deepfake is pretty hard for normal people.

    The Chequeado Story

    • Chequeado is a fact-checking project that cropped in a country where the government was messing around with official statistics, Mantzarlis said. Its story has many takeaways for other fact-checkers.
    • When Chequeado first started, they had no sources of funding and almost shut down after a year, said Laura Zommer, executive director of the organization. But through persistent fact-checking, as well as drawing upon questions from the public and publishing in a humorous way, they were able to find an audience.
    • Zommer said Chequeado's biggest success is in teaching people how to fact-check and encouraging them to engage with data and facts. "The second part of secret: we aren’t going to win, we are going to pair up – we think that is the best way to do it," she said.
    • Chequeado has partnerships with some of the biggest media companies in Argentina, which broadens its reach and brings in more income. The outlet has turned potential competition into alliances — and the increased attention has made politicians more transparent with their facts.

    The Future of ClaimReview

    • Over the past year, Google has been surfacing fact checks in search results using the Schema.org ClaimReview markup. It's become a key traffic-driver for fact-checkers around the world.
    • Google now accounts for about 60 percent of PolitiFact's traffic, Adair said — a huge percentage of which is due to ClaimReview.
    • In search results, fact checks get a rich text format with the claim, who said it and the verdict all appended to a link. But Milka Domanovic of Istinomer said that feature isn't translating her fact checks from English. Google's Simon Baumgartner said he'd look into the problem.
    • Adair asked: Would Google consider prioritizing fact checks from IFCN signatories in search? Baumgartner said it sounds like a good idea, but it's a slippery slope.

    Fact-checking in the Classroom

    • Not all claims are easily checkable, and that makes it hard for instructors to teach students how to tell truth from falsities.
    • "Media literacy is too often seen as a silver bullet that could solve our fake news issue," said Gabriela Jacomella of the European University Institute/Factcheckers.it. At the beginning, it felt empowering — but it puts a burden on teachers and creates expectations.
    • Media literacy, including fact-checking, is very volatile. Pushing to solve media literacy without a budget is hard for teachers, who don’t have enough time or money, so nothing is happening. Here are some potential solutions:
      • Lobbying for a more structured presentation of media literacy and education fact-checking in school curricula and making it compulsory.
      • Interdisciplinary research and strategic coordination
      • Collaborative efforts to produce and share tools and materials for a network of diverse cultures and teaching environments.
    • Chequeado has split fact-checking concepts into several different lessons for students:
      • Fact and data versus biases and opinions
      • Types and qualities of reliable sources
      • Identifying misinformation
      • How to build databases
    • “It's better to go to high school teachers because they already realize the problem of fact-checking among their students,” Jacomella said.

    Regional breakouts

    • Fact-checkers in the Asia breakout talked about potential ways they could collaborate across borders, such as creating a shared database of previously debunked hoaxes — especially videos and images from WhatsApp. However, bridging language barriers is a challenge.
    • Some schools in Europe don’t do fact-checking, and 18 schools across Europe are now helping to develop a new methodology to improve fact-checking.
    • Ucheck is a crowd-sourced fact-checking platform where users can put up facts that they believe to be incorrect. Then all the users can vote to say if they believe the fact to be fake news or not by providing reliable sources, with a moderator deciding the outcome.

    Day 2

     "Somewhere between lies and the truth lies the truth."

    That Damien Hirst quote, which displayed during The Whistle's presentation of its content management system on Thursday, is a fitting summation of the second day of Global Fact.

    With sessions spanning from more show-and-tell to a talk on misinformation in East Asia, here are the highlights from the day.


    • Michal Sella and Boaz Rakocz from The Whistle showed off their "Integrated Fact-Checking System," a CMS for the Israeli fact-checking project. Rokocz said it was important to have accessible, user-friendly systems because "in Israel we have to monitor everything and everyone.”
    • The qualities of The Whistle's system are:
      • User-friendly
      • Searchable
      • Centralized and customized
      • Generates two databases at once
      • Advanced search
      • Creates metadata
      • Aggregates items and accumulates topics

    • Derek Thomson of France 24 Observers talked about how the network of verifying images has helped the fact-checking project, which publishes online in French, English, Arabic and Persian — as well as on TV shows. “Our main utility is our network of observers … we quote ordinary people in their own words," he said.
    • The observers are:
      • Ordinary people who become trusted local sources
      • Recruited s
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    Daniel Funke is a staff writer covering online misinformation for PolitiFact. He previously reported for Poynter as a fact-checking reporter and a Google News Lab…
    Daniel Funke

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