ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 7, 2020) — The Poynter Institute’s MediaWise program now joins the 85 fact-checking organizations that are verified signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network’s (IFCN) code of principles. The code is intended to help citizens identify trustworthy, nonpartisan fact-checkers and is one of the few media quality standards recognized worldwide.
MediaWise is a hybrid program that includes both media literacy and fact-checking work. It is the only organization in the IFCN that primarily publishes fact-checks by teenagers (with editorial guidance and oversight from the MediaWise team) and in social media-friendly formats heavy on video storytelling.
“MediaWise is very much the new kid on the block in the fact-checking world and we feel so honored to join the IFCN,” said Katy Byron, MediaWise editor and program manager. “We plan to be active participants in the network and are excited to learn from and work more closely with our colleagues in the space both domestically and around the world to slow the spread of misinformation online.”
Poynter founded MediaWise in 2018 with the goal to teach 1 million American teenagers how to sort fact from fiction online. Well surpassing that goal, Mediawise has now reached over 10 million people and expanded its mission to serve more audiences, including first-time voters in the 2020 election.
But it’s the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network (TFCN) that has remained the bedrock of the program since the beginning, providing daily fact-checks for teenagers and by teenagers, on topics that most impact them and their peers. MediaWise staff at Poynter oversees all editorial content, training and coaching the teen fact-checkers along the way.
Over the course of two years, 91 MediaWise teen fact-checkers from across the U.S. have produced nearly 400 fact-checks on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Apple News and poynter.org. Each fact-check they produce is treated as an opportunity to teach other young people to be critical consumers of digital information. But the content isn’t like what they’d get in the classroom: fact-checks are produced in the native social media platform, allowing the teen fact-checkers to virtually walk their audience through every step of how they fact check a claim so they can learn the same skills and replicate it for themselves. Claims are rated in real-world language, ranging from “legit” to “not legit” and even “needs context” where the fact-checker provides any context that might be missing from the original claim to help the audience better understand the claim.
MediaWise recently began measuring the effectiveness of fact-checks on Instagram and how they influence users’ behavior — on average, more than 83.5% of users surveyed say they are more willing to fact-check on their own after watching a MediaWise Instagram story fact-check.
“It’s been amazing to watch the Teen Fact-Checking Network evolve into what it is today,” said Alexa Volland, the MediaWise multimedia reporter who oversees the TFCN. “We started out with debunking Instagram fact pages, and now our teens are tackling viral claims about the coronavirus. Joining and learning from IFCN will help us elevate our fact-checking even further.”
The IFCN is a distinct part of the fact-checking enterprise at the Poynter Institute that brings together fact-checking organizations worldwide and establishes and promotes best practices. PolitiFact, another distinct fact-checking unit within the Poynter Institute, is also a verified signatory of the IFCN code of principles. It won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 (it was then part of the Tampa Bay Times) and is currently the largest political fact-checking news organization in the U.S.
“We want the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network to be on the level of PolitiFact in 10 years,” said Byron. “Joining the IFCN is a key step to putting us on that trajectory.”
Fact-checkers around the world are responding to the explosion of misinformation across platforms related to COVID-19. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, half of Americans say they find it difficult to determine what is true and not true about the outbreak. MediaWise is a part of the IFCN’s Coronavirus Facts Alliance, which has collectively published more than 5,000 stories fact-checking misinformation or disinformation related to the coronavirus that is available to the public in a free database. MediaWise has already contributed more than 50 fact-checks to this effort.
About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at newsrooms, conferences and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a digital information literacy project for young people. The world’s top journalists and media innovators rely on Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and discourse that serves democracy and the public good.
MediaWise is a digital media literacy initiative led by The Poynter Institute: Its mission is to teach Americans of all ages how to sort fact from fiction online. The work of MediaWise has been seen by more than 10 million people since the project launched in 2018. The MediaWise program teaches people through in-person and virtual training events, online educational videos, fact-checking content reported by its Teen Fact-Checking Network, and its MediaWise Ambassador program — a group of prominent journalists and influencers who help promote the MediaWise mission. In 2020, Poynter launched the MediaWise Voter Project (#MVP2020) to teach first-time voters how to find reliable information online about the U.S. presidential election, a new initiative supported by Facebook. The foundation of MediaWise was created with support from Google.org, and MediaWise is a part of Google News Initiative. Learn more at poynter.org/mediawise.