April 12, 2022

In June, journalists, technologists, policymakers and fact-checkers of every stripe will convene in Oslo, Norway, to attend the ninth iteration of the world’s largest fact-checking conference, Global Fact 9.

This year, speakers vary from ProPublica’s Craig Silverman to The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum. They also include Peter McIndoe, the Gen Z creator of satirical conspiracy Birds Aren’t Real, the tongue-in-cheek movement responsible for such chaotic acts as protesting outside Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters to demand the company change its mountain bluebird logo, and burning a Cardinals flag in St. Louis in protest of the baseball team’s “pro-bird” imagery. The movement is also behind an abundance of billboards popping up around the U.S. displaying the movement’s titular message, “Birds aren’t real. “

“Dealing in the world of misinformation for the past few years, we’ve been really conscious of the line we walk,” McIndoe told The New York Times in December. “The idea is meant to be so preposterous, but we make sure nothing we’re saying is too realistic. That’s a consideration with coming out of character.”

Silverman, an investigative reporter covering disinformation and digital manipulation, is one of Global Fact’s headliners, along with his former BuzzFeed News colleague Jane Lytvynenko, now a research fellow with Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

In 2019, Silverman broke a story about marketing and advertising companies paying Facebook users to take control of their accounts in order to hawk scams and marketing schemes. Not long after, Russia began exploiting the same Facebook feature to spread propaganda throughout the U.S. “A huge security risk and a terrible idea,” his story reads.

In recent conversations, Silverman has addressed the impact of fake news, the ease and methods of media manipulation, as well as open-source tools journalists can use to investigate topics online.

“Whether it’s Russian trolls trying to create division in a democracy, marketers scheming to get the best Amazon reviews for their product, or criminals using a self-publishing platform to launder money, our media environment is more open to manipulation than ever before,” Silverman writes on his website.

Lytvynenko’s work with the Shorenstein Center, centered on tech and social change, focuses on “devising a training curriculum for newsrooms and academics, auditing research, and digging into media manipulation cases globally.” She also freelances, reporting on disinformation. Ukraininans around the world aren’t just protesting — we’re fighting an information war, I can’t Stop Watching a Livestream of Kyiv and Why the Balance of Power in Tech is Shifting Toward Workers are among her recently published pieces.

The conference location changes yearly, with past editions taking place in London, Buenos Aires, Rome and Cape Town.

Other big names present will be Joan Donovan, research director at the Shorenstein Center, and Bill Adair, the founder of PolitiFact.

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Seth Smalley is a reporter at Poynter and the IFCN. Get in touch at seth@poynter.org or on Twitter @sethsalex.
Seth Smalley

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