June 17, 2021

Factually is a newsletter about fact-checking and misinformation from Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. Sign up here to receive it on your email every Thursday.

A fraudulent export

As the debate in the United States rages over the voting reform bills inspired by false claims of election fraud, fact-checkers in Germany, Brazil and Peru are contending with eerily similar falsehoods.

Ahead of regional elections in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, a member of the conservative Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, claimed mail-in votes would be tampered with to swing the election for his party’s rivals. German fact-checking outlet Correctiv rebutted this claim by noting its similarities to falsehoods from the United States and by referring readers to a list of safeguards put in place by state election authorities.

After the election, when the AfD performed poorly compared to pre-election polling, another party member shared a tweet claiming to come from an election worker who’d tampered with ballots. Correctiv fact-checked this claim by pointing out the image was from a polling place in Maine during the 2020 U.S. presidential election

In Peru, which is currently in the midst of a tightly contested presidential election, fact-checking organization Verificador dealt with several claims alleging fraud, including one that alleged election officials had purposely thrown out votes in one precinct. It turns out that the number of votes cast did not match the number of people who voted, which as Verificador explained triggered a Peruvian law requiring those votes be discounted.

In Brazil, fact-checkers are dealing with falsehoods attacking that country’s system of voting. Brazil switched over to a completely electronic form of voting in 1996 in which voters use electronic machines (not connected to the internet) to type in their choice of candidate. Fact-checkers now are facing a slew of falsehoods attacking this system for not having a paper backup, and alleging the machines are able to be hacked.

However, Gilberto Scofield Jr., business and development director for the Brazillian fact-checking network Agência Lupa, said at Tuesday’s IFCN Talk that Brazil’s voting system has not had a single credible case of tampering or fraud since it was first adopted.

“So I think that made politicians, in general, a little upset with the less possibility of fraud during the elections,” Scofield Jr. quipped. He discussed how Agência Lupa partnered with Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court to train election officials how to spot and rebut claims of election fraud.

“It would be impossible for us in Rio de Janeiro to fight or fact-check or debunk any kind of claim going on,” Scofield Jr. said. He explained that training local officials to debunk falsehoods in their respective precincts improves the countrywide safety net against false claims of fraud.


Interesting fact-checks

Photo by Raskrinkavanje.ba

  • The Quint/WebQoof “Rajasthan Govt Only Vaccinating Rohingya Muslims? False Claim” (in English)
    • A social media post falsely claimed an Indian court struck down a policy in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan that barred Hindu refugees from Pakistan from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The Quint discovered Rajasthan was limiting vaccinations to those with either Indian citizenship cards or United Nations refugee cards. The court order required Rajasthan to vaccinate its entire population regardless of citizenship or documentation.
  • Raskrinkavanje.ba “Facebook Scams: Fake page deactivation notification,” (in Bosnian)
    • A series of Facebook pages branded themselves as “Business Terms and Policies” and used fake accusations of policy violations to extract login information from other pages and users. Raskrinkavanje.ba discovered the scam involved leveraging the fear of deactivation to get targeted pages to click on a link where they could input their username and password.

Quick hits

Screenshot of June 15th IFCN Talk

From the news: 

  • “Experts Call Disinformation on Miami’s Spanish Radio a ‘Psychological Cancer,” from Miami New Times. A report by the communications firm Prospero Latino and the progressive political organization Florida Rising found Spanish language radio stations echoing falsehoods about the role of Trump supporters in the Jan. 6 insurrection. It also found radio hosts have invoked fears of repressive socialist governments in South America to attack progressive policy proposals.
  • “The Brazilian doctor offering bogus Covid remedies for social media likes,” from the BBC. Dr. Albert Dickson, an eye doctor and state representative from the northeast of Brazil is offering free medical consultations and prescriptions to unproven drugs to treat COVID-19 in exchange for subscribing to his YouTube channel. The platform has previously removed 12 of his videos for violating its policies on medical misinformation.

From/for the community: 


Events & Trainings

IFCN promotional photo

  • June 23IFCN Talks #7: Lessons of Squash, Duke’s groundbreaking automated fact-checking platform: The Duke Reporters’ Lab is wrapping up its automated fact-checking project “Squash,” and will be joining IFCN Talks to discuss the promises and pitfalls of the project, as well as where automated fact-checking will go from here. Sign up here.

If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at factually@poynter.org by next Tuesday.

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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…
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