November 13, 2020

This is an addition to a story that ran earlier, updated after the project won an international award. You can read the original version here.

The CoronaVirusFacts Alliance was one of 10 projects selected to be supported for one year by the Scale-Up Committee of the Paris Peace Forum. The alliance was one of 10 selected from a field of 100 projects presented at this year’s forum. It was chosen for its potential impact as well as its potential for development through the support of the committee.

The alliance is a collaboration between 99 fact-checking organizations from over 70 countries producing fact-checks in 43 different languages. It has been coordinated for the last 11 months by the International Fact-Checking Network, and has produced a database of over 9,000 COVID-19 fact-checks, which have since been translated from English into Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi.

“This is a big day for fact-checkers,” said IFCN Associate Director Cristina Tardáguila. “This means that all the effort fact-checkers put together for the last 11 months to fight mis/disinformation about COVID-19 not only helped many people during this pandemic, but is being recognized as something that must continue.”

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. Due to the pandemic, this year’s forum was held virtually and welcomed 12,000 participants as well as 50 heads of state from around the world

In her pitch to the committee Thursday, 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 in her prepared remarks. “Fact-checkers have decided to collaborate, to work together and to share knowledge in order to be faster.”

She spoke about the power of having a global fact-checking database, which for some alliance members 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.”

As part of her pitch, Tardáguila also talked 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 11-member committee made up of representatives from organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations, acts as a project incubator that will give customized support to the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance. Fact-checkers who praised the project also offered suggestions for how it could improve.

“Misinformation around the virus is moving to offline word of mouth,” said GhanaFact’s Alhassan. “Then it is also becoming obvious that the number of (new) fact-checks around the pandemic is dwindling, so how can we evolve to deal with this new phenomenon?”

Others advocated for more coordination from the IFCN to address both the global and regional spread of misinformation, narratives similar to efforts undertaken by fact-checkers in Europe.

“Periodic roundups of the hottest stories in disinformation around the world could serve as a global alert system, like the one you have for tsunamis,” Zagni said, adding that such a system will need increased investment.

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Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering the wide world of misinformation. He previously worked in Arizona and Washington D.C. for…
Harrison Mantas

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