Hello, fact-checkers of the world!
It’s been about a month since Poynter announced Baybars Örsek, the former executive editor of Turkey’s political fact-checking website Doğruluk Payı, as the new director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and me, founder and director of Agência Lupa, in Brazil, as the first-ever associate director. We have some big ideas in store for the IFCN.
First of all, keep in mind that “fact-checking keeps growing” — but it also needs to get stronger in many aspects. When the founding director of IFCN, Alexios Mantzarlis, started back in September 2015, the fact-checking community numbered about 60 different outlets around the globe.
Now, according to Duke’s Reporter Lab, there are about 160 active platforms fighting misinformation — and 67 of them are doing so as verified members of our network. So a bigger team — made up of a director and an associate director — was very much needed at the IFCN.
Baybars and I have many things in common. We come from countries where fact-checkers have faced pushback for our work, and we understand how difficult it can be to obtain trustworthy data in a short period of time. But we also might complement each other in many senses.
Baybars managed to start and grow a nonprofit organization. He has an international relations background and a master’s degree in conflict resolution. I founded a for-profit newswire service and am an expert in a mixture of journalism and marketing. To be sure, you will find an energetic and skilled partnership working hard at the IFCN to push this activity forward.
Education and collaboration are two of my favorite words in the fact-checking community right now. Those who can work together and teach others how to stop false news will have the IFCN’s support and attention. Platforms, governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations willing to work in these directions: Get ready. Fact-checkers, too.
And, just to start, let’s have a great International Fact-checking Day on April 2. We are planning tons of things related to media literacy, how to spot misinformation and why facts are important now more than ever. After that, fact-checkers across the European Union will collaborate to debunk falsities about the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Baybars Örsek and I also agree that innovation is a must. False news producers — at least in my part of the world — were savvy to technological limitations and made real adjustments because of that. In 2018, for example, disinformation was spread on WhatsApp using images and simple text messages instead of URLs.
So how should the fact-checking community be innovating? The IFCN is here to listen and to support you. We need to be ahead, not running behind. Let’s be aggressive on this topic.
You will hear and read a lot about fact-checking and debunking. IFCN reporter Daniel Funke and I are prepared to cover this space even more than we already do on Poynter.org. Besides that, one of my personal goals is to have a Spanish version of everything we publish. We will broaden our audience and strengthen the IFCN’s brand in the part of the world where Spanish is spoken and fact-checking seems to be growing very fast.
Finally, you will see an IFCN ready to defend fact-checkers worldwide. Örsek and I want to schedule trips to countries with elections and where fact-checkers are under attack. We understand that support is much needed in this space and can make a big difference. Our presence will be felt as much as possible.
For the next few months — until our annual conference in Cape Town, South Africa (Global Fact 6 is almost here!) — we will improve communications and make more announcements. But for now, you can reach us anytime at @factchecknet and firstname.lastname@example.org.