The news agency Agence France-Presse just launched a disinformation tip line on WhatsApp for Spanish false information verification in the United States ahead of the fall midterm elections.
WhatsApp users can now contact a team of AFP fact-checkers through the app to verify memes, videos, photos and links that they encounter online. Grégoire Lemarchand, AFP’s deputy editor-in-chief, said the tip line helps establish a personal connection between the organization and people who are interested in facts.
“It seemed particularly relevant to launch in the U.S. in Spanish in the run-up to the midterms, in agreement with the Meta team, as we know that the Latino community is likely to be targeted by disinformation campaigns,” Lemarchand said.
Fact-checkers saw disinformation thrive during the 2020 elections and the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
“We feel the tip line offers a way to connect with Americans who are alarmed at what may be circulating on their phones in the run-up to voting day on Nov. 8,” said Arthur MacMillan, head of AFP digital investigation in the United States. “Our journalists will endeavor to answer all questions about misinformation that readers flag to us, but we are particularly focused on elections.”
AFP doesn’t promise a definitive answer to every single question, but it does guarantee a response, conclusive or not.
“Just send us a question, along with a link, a photo, a meme or a video and our teams will try to answer as soon as possible. The only thing we guarantee is an answer,” Lemarchand said. “It could be precise, with elements of verification sometimes referring to one or several fact checks that we have published, but also inconclusive — either because we can’t collect enough evidence to answer or because the content cannot be fact-checked.”
Fact-checkers at AFP already have experience with similar tip lines in India, France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico. Like with its tip lines in other countries, AFP uses the Meedan check tool for the U.S.-based one, which it runs out of its Washington bureau.
Lemarchand said that although there are difficulties with working on WhatsApp on such a large scale because it’s a private communication app with strong encryption, “we can’t afford to sit back and do nothing.”
“We can never know how a fact check we send is received and interpreted, but the enthusiastic thanks we very often receive in return are encouraging.”
AFP has a network of 130 journalists in the U.S., Latin America and globally who specialize in digital verification.
- The Associated Press: Posts miscaption 1993 photo of Queen Mother’s corgis (English)
- Twenty-nine-year-old photos of the queen’s mother’s four corgis being carried off a plane were circulating online with the claim that the plane was returning from Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where the queen died, and that the corgis belonged to her. As AP Fact Check points out, the photos are from 1993 and the corgis belong to the queen’s mother, not the queen. The U.K. remains in national mourning.
- Reuters Fact Check: Video shows Hillary Clinton at a birthday party, not a satanic ritual
- A claim was spreading online that a video of Hillary Clinton depicts her at a type of satanic ritual, an “annual earth ritual.” In fact, she was at a space-themed birthday party.
- NBC News: A ‘cheapfake’ Dr. Oz poster went viral on social media. The fact check did not. (English)
- Yet another case study on the value of reach when it comes to fact-checking. An edited image widely circulated of a Dr. Oz supporter holding a campaign sign vertically so it spells out “No.” While the edited image was shared widely and quickly on multiple platforms, the fact checks correcting the record haven’t seen the same popularity. This is a recurring issue in the fact-checking space since fact checks are rarely as flashy or enticing as misinformation.
From the news:
- Exclusive: Yahoo buys The Factual to add news credibility ratings Yahoo just acquired a startup, The Factual, that uses artificial intelligence to rate news source credibility by four different categories. As Sara Fischer points out in the Axios Media Trends newsletter, this could be a big move given that Yahoo’s monthly readership of over 200 million might be exposed to credibility ratings on every future article. “The Factual uses artificial intelligence to rank articles based on four criteria: site quality, author expertise, article tone (level of opinion) and quality of sources.” Read about how it works here. (Axios, Sara Fischer)
- Defi Project: Knowledge sharing between initiatives to fight disinformation Les Surligneurs, a French legal-focused fact-checking organization and signatory to the IFCN Code of Principles, is launching fact-checking training sessions for French media organizations. Read more above. (Les Surligneurs, Emeline Sauvage)
- An Open Letter to Nigerian Politicians An open letter to Nigerian politicians from the nation’s fact-checkers. A coalition of eight fact-checking organizations that operate in the country penned and signed an open letter addressed to government officials calling attention to the “dangerous trend” of disinformation affecting elections. (Dubawa, Africa Check, FactCheckHub, FactsMatterNG, Daily Trust, The Cable, CJID, ICIR)
- WikiFact An interesting initiative. “Wikifact would be a statement-centric resource where individual statements would have articles about them.” Read more above.
From/for the community:
- The International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute has awarded $450,000 in grant support to organizations working to lessen the impact of false and misleading information on WhatsApp. In partnership with Meta, the Spread the Facts Grant Program gives verified fact-checking organizations resources to identify, flag and reduce the spread of misinformation that threatens more than 100 billion messages each day. The grant supports eleven projects from eight countries including India, Spain, Nigeria, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Indonesia and Jordan. Read more about the announcement here.
- For Factually subscribers who live in Florida, please join us at the Straz Center in Tampa on Tuesday, Oct. 11, for a behind-the-scenes conversation with Associated Press executive editor Julie Pace. Poynter president Neil Brown will interview Pace about a variety of topics, including AP’s mission to elevate fact-based journalism in an environment rife with mis- and disinformation. Get tickets here.
- To tackle the spread of health-related misinformation and debunk common perceptions around healthcare and practices at the ground level, THIP Media and Newschecker — both signatories to the IFCN — announced a collaboration at the beginning of September. “Both teams will collaborate to identify and fact-check health myths and misinformation prevalent on social media.”
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