The challenges for fact-checkers working across different countries include time zones and translations

November 7, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

Fact-checking across borders, in different time zones and in disparate languages at the same time is a daily routine for a handful of fact-checking organizations. On the last day of Facebook’s global Fact-Checking Partner Summit, some of those fact-checkers took the stage in Menlo Park, California, and shared with an audience of more than 100 fact-checkers three of the biggest challenges they face: hiring people, working in different time zones and translating their verifications.

In the morning session, an editor from an African fact-checking organization emphasized that, in order to fight misinformation in different nations, it is vital for work to reflect local knowledge. This means the team must be composed of local journalists/researchers who are embedded with local culture. This way it’s easier to understand the context of memes, manipulated videos and fake photos — and also to debunk them. The goal is to make sure the final fact check doesn’t sound distant, international and hard to understand.

A French fact-checker agreed with that and even added a suggestion: Invest time in translations. In his organization, for example, new fact-checkers spend at least three months working in English before they start publishing fact checks in their local language. By doing so, many editors can also evaluate that work and make sure the company’s process is understood.

Training and developing a strict methodology on how to do a fact-check were two points raised by Indian and Sri Lankan fact-checkers at the Menlo Park summit.

They said these are the best ways to make sure all fact-checkers who are working abroad and in different languages have the same know-how about tools and are also on the same page regarding the organization’s procedure on how to debunk a piece of false content. It guarantees a certain standard of quality and a high level of accuracy.

One of the biggest challenges these cross-border fact-checking organizations face is how to assure two fact-checkers are not working in the same story at the same time. And the only way to do so is to develop and keep a strict workflow in different time zones.

The African fact-checker said that his organization decided to hire an editor exclusively dedicated to Facebook’s Third Party Fact-Checking Program. This person is responsible for calling out if two journalists or researchers are debunking the same piece of suspicious content popping up in different countries, which is quite common.

All fact-checkers that participated in this session in Menlo Park agreed on the profile of new fact-checker. They said this person needs to be willing to spend time doing deep research and to be tech savvy. They also must be ready to work with a more experienced journalist under a strict methodology or process.

In all organizations represented in the round table, teams that went or started to work abroad included at least a young researcher/journalist (better if local), an experienced editor and a translator.

The first Fact-Checking Partner Summit was a two-day event for fact-checkers only. All sessions were either off the record or under Chatham House Rules.

Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa. She can be reached at ctardaguila@poynter.org.