April 28, 2022

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Ukraine Facts, an initiative that gathered fact checks about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gave researchers access to a repository of data on the war. A study out of Kosovo has done just that, gleaning valuable insights into the sphere of mis- and disinformation.

The study, conducted by International Fact-Checking Network verified signatory hibrid.info in partnership with Hasan Prishtina University, uses Ukraine Fact’s database to examine data related to false information spread, both in Kosovo and the rest of the world.

“We were one of the top countries in Europe with internet coverage, while on the other hand, we were lacking in media and digital literacy,” said Shkelzen Osmani, editor-in-chief of hibrid.info, a Kosovan fact-checking outlet. “So we decided to do a quick report to introduce people to the risk that might come from misinformation.”

Social media was most frequently used to spread false content in Kosovo, and Facebook topped the list. (Facebook remains the most used social media in Kosovo, responsible for about 40-50% of misinformation dissemination, according to the study.)

Forty-six percent of the false information in Kosovo was spread through photos, while 20% was spread through text and an additional 20% was spread via an amalgam of both photo and text, the report found.

Articles in Kosovo that contained disinformation were created outside the country and in a language other than Albanian (about 95% of Kosovans speak Albanian as their native language). “This implies that they were first translated and then disseminated,” the study reads.

Osmani additionally observed multiple articles drawing similarities between the separatist regions of Ukraine and the circumstances in Kosovo and Serbia.

“There were some media reports that said since Russia invaded Ukraine that Serbia plans to do the same to Kosovo,” Osmani said. “That they brought military forces close to our border.”

The Ukraine Facts initiative was started by Spanish-based fact-checking organization Maldita.es, which crowdsourced fact checks from IFCN signatories on mis- and disinformation specifically related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the database includes fact checks from across the globe, hibrid.info’s study examined worldwide trends in addition, not only Kosovan ones.

“Misinforming video content remains the most shared content worldwide,” the report reads. “Video content is disseminated as a standalone product, but often appears in combination with text.”

Thirty-six percent of debunked information in the international community came from video, the largest contributor of any source, according to the Ukraine Facts database. The next largest contributor, photos, came in at 25%, while text-only debunks represented 10% of the total. Osmani said that while these figures are not exact, they indeed more or less reflect an accurate picture of misinformation trends, based on other independent studies.

“The sample is very close to reality,” Osmani said.

The report concluded with several recommendations for editorial boards and the general public :

  • That editorial boards should apply a rigorous source-verification process to information they publish
  • That the general public should limit usage of social media to avoid consuming or spreading false information
  • That it is especially important for publications to balance sources of information during wartime, given the increased prominence of propaganda
  • That editorial boards should use informative, rather than sensational, headlines
  • That the general public should give a critical eye to content before sharing it

Interesting fact-checks


Quick hits

Alex Jones, flanked by bodyguards, leaves a rally protesting Covid-19 stay at home orders at the Capitol that was heavily promoted by his Infowars website. (Shutterstock)

From the news:

  • Fact Check: Is the Government Of India Giving Free Laptops To Students? Unfortunately for students, the Indian government is not, in fact, giving away free laptops, despite claims to the contrary spreading on social media and in mass text messages. “The government is not running any such scheme,” India’s press bureau wrote. (Republic World, Amrit Burman)
  • Posts share misleading claims about nutritional benefits of bananas. Claims are circulating which overstate the nutritional value of bananas in curing constipation. “Although bananas can help ease constipation, it is not a magic fruit for that,” a health expert told AFP. (Montira Rungjirajittranon, AFP)
  • Fact check: Post claiming Disney lost $2.4 billion is stolen satire. Amid a clash between GOP politicians in Florida and the Disney corporation, conservative groups are circulating claims that Disney has lost $2.4 billion since calling for a repeal of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In fact, the $2.4 billion figure comes from a satirical website. “Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real,” the satirical website reads. (Valerie Pavilonis, USA Today)
  • Alex Jones’s Infowars Files for Bankruptcy. Infowars, and three other Alex Jones-associated companies, filed for bankruptcy — a one-two punch for Jones, who also lost multiple defamation suits last year related to his false claims about the Sandy Hook massacre. (New York Times, Derrick Bryson Taylor)

From/for the community:

  • The ninth iteration of the world’s largest gathering of fact-checkers, Global Fact 9, will occur in Oslo, Norway, this year. International Fact-Checking Network’s signatories will be provided with free access to the conference.
  • Newtral interviewed MediaWise director Alex Mahadevan. Mahadevan and MediaWise international training manager Brittani Kollar spoke about topics ranging from social media content moderation to disinformation and the roles of politicians in social media.

Thanks for reading. 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.

Corrections? Tips? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at factually@poynter.org.

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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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