The CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, a collection of 99 fact-checking organizations from over 70 countries that produced over 9,000 COVID-19 fact-checks in 43 different languages, received global recognition from the virtually assembled audience at the third annual Paris Peace Forum on Thursday.
The annual conference brings together world leaders, global dignitaries and various non-profit and non-governmental organizations to discuss ways of avoiding global conflict, and providing solutions to global challenges. The CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, coordinated by the International Fact-Checking Network, was one of 100 projects selected to present to this diverse group of global thinkers and powerbrokers. Normally held in person, 10,000 participants joined virtually to listen to speeches by world leaders and observe project presentations.
In pre-written remarks, IFCN Associate Director Cristina Tardáguila talked about the alliance as a solution to the global problem posed by both mis- and disinformation about COVID-19.
“It’s widely known that falsehoods travel fast, don’t respect barriers,” Tardáguila wrote. “Fact-checkers have decided to collaborate, to work together and to share knowledge in order to be faster.”
She spoke about how alliance members contributed fact-checks to a searchable database of COVID-19 fact-checks that have since been translated from English into Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi. For some fact-checkers, the database acted as an early warning system for potential coronavirus misinformation.
“Thanks to the alliance, we have misinformation spotted and located in advance by other fellow fact-checkers,” said Joaquín Ortega, head of content at Spanish fact-checking organization Newtral. “This undoubtedly facilitated the verification process when these pieces of content were adapted to go viral in Spain.”
The collaboration helped some alliance members improve their abilities as fact-checkers, and better understand the global flow of misinformation.
“Thrown into the deep end as a relatively new fact-checker, the alliance created the needed environment to see beyond our immediate target audience,” said Rabiu Alhassan, managing editor of Ghanaian fact-checking organization, GhanaFact.
“The knowledge we gained from this collaboration gave us new views on how to analyze and report misinformation, and I believe we could apply this for other topics in the future,” said Natalia Leal, content director at Brazilian fact-checking organization Agencia Lupa.
PolitiFact editor Angie Holan said fact-checkers collaborating across borders is not a new phenomenon. What sets the alliance apart is its longevity and scale.
“We’ve been fact-checking and sharing information for months now about an issue that has affected countries worldwide,” Holan said. “It’s been quite an undertaking.”
At the forum, the audience also learned about the four WhatsApp chatbots developed by the IFCN that help the public easily access fact-checks from their phones. The project also yielded partnership opportunities with WhatsApp and Facebook that helped support 21 alliance member fact-checking projects with over $800,000 in grant funding.
Giovanni Zagni, content director at Italian fact-checking organization Facta, praised the collaboration for creating the easy-to-use chatbot and a database of fact-checks that can be studied by misinformation researchers.
“The only problem that I see is that it should be much more famous,” Zagni said. The Paris Peace Forum, which bills itself as a place where projects can gain exposure and increase their global reach, may provide that opportunity.