The $50,000 USD grant offered by the International Fact-Checking Network with support from the Omidyar Network seeks to reward innovation in the format, business model or technology of fact-checking.
CheckNews is a "human search engine" which allows the audience to submit questions, request fact checks or find verified information in order to involve it in the verification process from the start and preempt concerns of fact-checkers' "selection bias."
Libération first tested CheckNews during the French presidential elections in the spring of 2017 and decided to keep it as a permanent project after receiving thousands of questions.
"We think fact-checking can be efficient only if it proves it's capable to verify information without bias, and without the concern that one political side could benefit from it. That’s why we decided, last September, to transform Désintox (the traditional fact-checking website of Libération) into CheckNews, a platform that offers an on-demand service of verification and explanations," said Pauline Moullot, fact-checker and project lead.
CheckNews was chosen as the winner of Fact Forward after passing two rounds of judgement by a panel of five expert advisors: Bill Adair (Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy. Creator of PolitiFact); Mariano Blejman (Founder of Media Factory news accelerator. Founder of Media Party, the biggest mediathon in Latin America); Laura Hazard Owen (Deputy Editor of Nieman Journalism Lab at The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University); Emily Thorson (assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University); and Janine Warner (Co-founder of Sembramedia and Knight Fellow for the International Center for Journalists).
The advisors considered CheckNews as a project with a strong capability of international collaboration and a seamless adaptation to other languages.
The Fact Forward fund will help Libération to reach two main goals. First, expansion: the team will deploy CheckNews to other countries. One of those is Tunisia, where the platform was recently tested during local elections.
"Media organizations of many different countries already know how to work together on investigation pieces, like the ones we see with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. We should be able to do the same thing with fact-checking," Moullot said.
CheckNews' second goal is to keep improving the interface to serve its main purpose of responding to readers' questions about the main facts in public discourse.
As the winner of the fund, Libération is committed to present results in 12 months.
Fact Forward received 51 applications from 44 countries. Libération was chosen as the winner from a final shortlist of three projects. The other finalists were Brazilian fact-checker Aos Fatos, that proposed the development of a Twitter bot redirecting users to factually accurate content, and another automated fact-checking solution.
The International Fact-Checking Network will open Fact Forward for applications again in 2019.