The U.N.’s General Assembly is like the Olympic Games for fact-checkers. They don’t take their eyes from their screens. They wait to see or hear how each president or prime minister will behave. What reliable data will they share? What false or misleading information about their administration or country will they try to pass forward?
Since Tuesday, for the first time ever, 23 fact-checking organizations from 17 countries are working together to verify speeches from the UN’s headquarters. On the first day of the 74th General Assembly, 43 have been fact-checked – and only 13 of them were considered 100% true.
So far, #UNAssemblyFacts has verified claims made by representatives from six nations: Brazil, the United States, Turkey, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Spain. Many more will be analyzed until Sept. 30, the last day of the summit.
The alliance has gathered up to 40 professional fact-checkers who are connected 24 hours a day worldwide, separating facts from fiction.
President Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), who opened the international summit Tuesday with a 30-minute speech, was the politician with the most misleading information. Brazilian fact-checkers from Agência Lupa and Aos Fatos verified 26 claims and classified 12 of them as being false. This brings him to almost two false statements every 2 minutes.
According to public data, Bolsonaro has given the world low-quality data about Cuban doctors who have worked in Brazil under “Mais Médicos” program, built by previous presidents to spread health assistance. He was also wrong about the Amazon region, which is definitely not “untouched” as he claimed it to be in the U.N.’s tribune.
The American team worked on a claim that about 80% of people live in countries where religious liberty is a problem. The quote was rated mostly true by PolitiFact, which should call the world’s attention. The Turkish team classified as true Erdogan’s quote about humanitarian aid. According to public data, Turkey is actually the country that offers the highest humanitarian aid to GDP ratio in the entire world.
Fact-checkers from Nigeria, on the other hand, caught a misleading claim from President Muhammadu Buhari, the kind of quote politicians like to make in events where they can be widely heard.
At the U.N., Buhari talked about several achievements under the “National Social Investment Programme – a pro-poor scheme that targets the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country.” But Dubawa’s fact-checkers pointed out very clearly that “there is no credible database (in Nigeria) that houses full details of the activities of the program. Moreover, the World Poverty Clock, a web platform designed to provide real-time poverty estimates, shows that 94 million out of 197 million Nigerians are still living in extreme poverty.”
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez had five claims analyzed and they were all found to be true. Maldita.es‘ team shared the content with all alliance members in case participants wanted to republish that information. So far, Sánchez is the politician with best performance.
But there are a lot more to be seen: from Iran, Germany, The Philippines, etc. And fact-checkers are all connected to make sure false claims don’t go viral.
The goal in #UNAssemblyFacts is to make sure citizens around the world know about false or misleading information spread by high-level politicians during the international event held in New York.
All fact checks published during the General Assembly will be shared within the participants so they can be translated and republished.
Before engaging in this alliance, the fact-checking organizations agreed to a set of terms proposed by the International Fact-Checking Network.
They committed to writing articles in a “responsible and accurate way, following the IFCN’s Code of Principles,” which means they will have to be transparent about the sources they use, they will have to let evidence inform their conclusions and be nonpartisan.
If a fact-checker makes a mistake, a correction must be published and all members of the project should be alerted about it so they can also translate and adjust the information they might have republished.
Anyone interested in following the results of this fact-checking alliance should keep an eye on the hashtag #UNAssemblyFacts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It’s a good opportunity to elevate the cost of a few lies.
Read the Spanish version of this article at Univision.
Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa, in Brazil. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.