August 19, 2021

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

The rolling boulder

This will be my last edition of Factually. I’m moving on from the International Fact-Checking Network, and we’ll be shifting the newsletter to a monthly format while the IFCN looks for a new reporter. If you or someone you know would like to throw your hat in the ring for this position, you can use this link to apply to join our team at the IFCN.

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of Factually, which will come out on Sept. 30 with each subsequent edition publishing the last Thursday of the month.

I wrote in my parting email to the verified signatories of the IFCN’s Code of Principles that their work is a sisyphean task. You debunk a falsehood about something like chemical spraying helicopters in Italy only to see it pop up again in Ireland or France. Some of the details have changed, but the structure remains the same, and worse yet the repetition of the falsehood makes it easier for people to believe.

Add to that the political and financial benefits of spreading malignant falsehoods, combined with the scapegoating of fact-checking organizations for technology companies’ content moderation decisions, and you’ve got a profession that requires a healthy dose of self-care and mental health days.

There also aren’t enough fact-checkers to do the job. Facebook’s head of integrity and partnerships Keren Goldshlager told an audience at May’s United Facts of America conference that Facebook uses the work of its fact-checking partners to help train algorithms to both detect and flag potential misinformation.

“The reason we do that is because we want to use our fact-checking partners’ journalistic insight, while we take some of that technical work to look for that content at scale,” she said.

To give a sense of the scale, Justine Isola, Facebook’s head of misinformation policy, said the platform had labeled 167 million pieces of COVID-19 content alone. (Full disclosure: Facebook requires its fact-checking partners be signatories to the IFCN’s Code of Principles, and has also partnered with the IFCN on numerous grants to promote the field of fact-checking.)

But artificial intelligence is not without its flaws. During the June 23 IFCN Talk, Duke Reporters’ Lab lead technologist Christopher Guess said that while a 90% accuracy rating of matching fact checks to false claims is considered excellent in the world of machine learning, the same doesn’t hold true for the world of organic matter.

There are many noble efforts to ameliorate this deficit. The IFCN is putting a greater focus on international training to grow the global fact-checking community. MediaWise is also getting into the international training game partnering with fact-checking organizations in Turkey, Spain and Brazil to extend its media literacy prowess to those countries. They’re also looking for a coordinator for that program, so if you’re interested click here.

The point: fact-checkers need more help. Please use this list of IFCN’s verified signatories to find a fact-checking organization that works in your country, and if you feel so inclined, reach out to see how you can lend a hand.


Interesting fact checks

AP Photo/Esteban Felix

  • T Verifica/Telemundo: “No, the increase in COVID-19 cases is not the fault of immigrants” (in Spanish)
    • COVID-19 cases are climbing in Texas and Florida, and the respective governors of both states have attributed this rise to undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border. However, fact-checkers at T Verifica spoke to medical experts who pointed to the low vaccination rates in both states, and restrictions on preventative measures like mask mandates as the likely culprit. The fact-check also pointed to Mississippi, which has the lowest undocumented population in the country and the third-highest per capita infection rate.

Quick hits

By II.studio/shutterstock

From the news: 

From/for the community: 

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.

Any corrections? Tips? We’d love to hear from you: factually@poynter.org

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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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