April 1, 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.

Disinformation on the world stage

Tomorrow is International Fact-Checking Day. During last week’s congressional hearing on social media disinformation, BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko made sure we were focused on the “International” part.

“US lawmakers are doing themselves and their future policies a huge disservice by ignoring the impact of these tech companies abroad, where the same issues they’re talking about are more pronounced,” Lytvynenko tweeted. She noted many of the “12 anti-vaxx superspreaders” referenced at the hearing are foreign nationals, and that the problems of online falsehoods do not respect artificial national boundaries.

Facebook may have been listening when it decided to freeze the account of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro after he repeatedly touted the use of an unproven medication as a treatment for COVID-19. The platform had taken similar action in the past against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, although recently critics have argued the company has been inconsistent in its enforcement.

COVID-19 has brought into stark relief the infodemic capabilities of online falsehoods. That’s why fact-checkers have turned to both regional and international collaborations as a way to fight back.

In June 2020, fact-checkers from Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom published their report on common misinformation narratives about COVID-19 that had spread across Europe. It offered a map and timelines to visualize the spread of falsehoods about hydroxychloroquine, helicopters spraying disinfectant and gargling salt water to treat the virus.

The CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, which combined the work of more than 90 fact-checking organizations from more than 70 countries to create a database of over 12,000 COVID-19 fact checks, offered a similar infographic mapping the global spread of five major COVID-19 claims.

But the international spread of mis- and disinformation is not limited to COVID-19. In Myanmar,  to justify its take over of the civilian government, the military junta used eerily similar claims of voter fraud as those propagated by former U.S. President Donald Trump. And last October, Politico reported on the spread of QAnon in Europe.

Lytvynenko noted at the end of her thread that Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s efforts to address misinformation in other languages, so the international imperative did get a little attention from U.S. lawmakers.But as reports from The Wall Street Journal, The Diplomat and even Facebook have revealed in the past month, this issue deserves a broader scope of attention.


Interesting fact-checks

Screenshot by NewsMobile


Quick hits

AP Photo/Peter Morrison

From the news: 

From/for the community: 


Events and training

 

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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Thanks for reading Factually.

Harrison

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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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