Seven fact-checking organizations spread across the globe will get a combined $500,000 in grant funding to help support their efforts to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The award is part of the Vaccine Grant Program —  a partnership between WhatsApp and the International Fact-Checking Network to help fact-checking organizations quickly scale up their projects to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. It comes at a critical moment as countries around the world begin rolling out their vaccination drives. Given the urgent need, grant recipients are required to launch their projects no later than May 31.

“Fact-checkers around the world have been working around the clock to inform the public about the importance and safety of clinically approved vaccines to end the pandemic,” said IFCN Director Baybars Örsek. “We are truly excited to see the diverse set of innovative tactics to reach out to more people with factual information during this global vaccination rollout.”

The collaboration between WhatsApp and the IFCN builds on the 2020 partnership between the two organizations supporting the work of the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance. That collaboration helped produce a searchable database of more than 12,000 COVID-19 fact-checks in over 40 languages, pooled from the work of more than 90 fact-checking organizations in over 70 countries.

“We are proud to partner with the Poynter Institute and their global network of fact-checking organizations to support their critical work to connect people worldwide to life saving facts around COVID-19 vaccines,” said Orlando Watson, Strategic Partnerships Lead at WhatsApp. “We have also partnered with more than 150 government organizations and global health leaders to connect our users to official sources of information on COVID-19, as well as schedule their vaccine appointments.”

The IFCN and WhatsApp have joined forces again to boost the work of fact-checkers fighting vaccine misinformation as the world enters this new phase of the pandemic.

The seven finalists were selected from a pool of more than 70 applicants by a panel of fact-checking community members and representatives from IFCN and WhatsApp. Laurens Lauer, a selection committee member and research associate at University Duisburg-Essen in Germany, praised the diversity of the selection projects.

“The selected projects represent well the versatile efforts of the global fact-checking community to improve its efficiency in fighting health and vaccine-related misinformation,” Lauer said. “Their recognition is truly deserved.”

Fellow selection committee member and instructional director of Brazil’s Association of Investigative Journalists Adriana Barsotti said it was important that projects demonstrated their ability to have the greatest impact on vulnerable countries and communities.

“Could they reach countries where the problem of misinformation against vaccines is more worrying? And if so, could they change the opinion of the most vulnerable populations on the subject?” Barsotti asked, explaining her evaluation process. She praised the selected projects for their efforts to expand collaborations between journalists, fact-checkers and civil society organizations.

Read about the selected projects below:

Liputan6.com (Indonesia)

Project: Anti-Hoax Protection with WhatsApp Chatbot
Grant: $64,260

Anti-Hoax Protection with WhatsApp Chatbot is an effort from Liputan6.com to expand the distribution of fact-checking content and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia. The project will involve collaborations with community radio networks and members of Jaringan Pendamping Desa (village assistance network) which operates in about 75,000 villages to amplify the program to people who live in remote areas. It will also support virtual media literacy programs to fight vaccine misinformation and expand digital literacy in Indonesia.

Reuters (USA)

Project: ¡Confirma!
Grant: $97,000

Reuters will leverage the expertise of its global fact-checking unit and award-winning graphics team to provide a new service to help debunk false narratives that specifically target the Hispanic population in the United States and the wider population in Mexico, by creating and distributing mobile-ready, graphics-based fact-checks in Spanish.

These graphics will be distributed broadly through Reuters existing partnerships with dozens of Hispanic media outlets and directly to consumers, via SMS text messages, made possible through its partner, UNO TV.

VishvasNews (India)

Project: Sach Ke Sathi: Yes for Vaccine
Grant: $51,281

“Sach Ke Sathi: Yes for Vaccine” will focus on people living in 10 cities in four Indian states (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh) to make them aware of the misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination in the language they best understand.

This is a digital-first project aimed at providing fact checks and media literacy training with the support of city-specific WhatsApp Groups of 1,000+ trained people, 18,000+ local influencers of the Dainik Jagran newspaper network, and 30+ city-specific virtual fact check sessions planned for these cities. These trainees will in turn utilize WhatsApp to establish interactive reach and act as advocates for media literacy within their trusted communities.

Aos Fatos (Brazil)

Project: Projeto Artefato (Artifact Project)
Grant: $86,210

Aos Fatos will launch Projeto Artefato, a groundbreaking campaign to engage people in a cultural movement to fight misinformation. By commissioning prestigious Brazilian artists to create exclusive COVID-19-related artworks and sharing on social media with a Q&A about COVID-19 vaccines, we will encourage users to organically join a cultural campaign to fight misinformation.

By the end of the campaign, the commissioned artists will be invited to auction their originals with the proceeds going both to participating artists and philanthropic institutions working with vulnerable communities severely affected by the pandemic. This action aims to equally benefit artists, vulnerable Brazilians and fact-checkers, by increasing trust among followers and sharing a fundamental tool to hold politicians accountable.

Africa Check (South Africa)

Project: Keep COVID-19 Vaccine Facts Going
Grant: $49,450

Africa Check’s Keep COVID-19 Vaccine Facts Going project harnesses the power of media literacy, together with radio and civil society, to inoculate underserved, digitally unconnected communities against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The program will focus on communities in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa and empower them to critically understand, analyse and evaluate information instead of simply consuming and sharing it.

It will cover 10 topics related to health, COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, with local context at its core. Easy-to-understand and shareable content in text, visual, audio and video formats will be developed in six widely spoken local languages, including isiZulu, Kiswahili and Pidgin, to ensure maximum engagement.

EFE Verifica (Spain)

Project: Farmacheck
Grant: $70,497

Farmacheck is a collaborative project between EFE Verifica and the General Council of Pharmacists of Spain that plans to leverage the reach and societal importance of Spanish pharmacies to distribute fact checks and connect Spaniards to authoritative health information during the country’s vaccine distribution.

Beginning in May, pharmacies will display posters featuring a QR code that will connect users to the most frequently fact-checked claims as well as a WhatsApp tip line to submit claims and get answers to their vaccine questions. Users will also get access to fact checks in meme form making it easy to share with friends and family. The goal is to enable Spaniards, regardless of technical acumen, to use technology to combat misinformation rather than spread it.

Full Fact (United Kingdom)

Project: Community-led Responses to Vaccine Hesitancy
Grant: $76,111

Full Fact will be running a community outreach program to help their fact-checking work support community-led responses to anti-vaccination misinformation. This new model of community engagement will use their existing WhatsApp service to intervene with good information to improve people’s understanding and trust in vaccines by working with trusted partners. They hope this project will prove a model for future community outreach through WhatsApp.

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