In this panel discussion, the representatives of four top fact-checking ventures gave their audience an insight of their work. As it was pointed out by the coordinator of this panel Mark Stencel (co-diretor of Duke Reporter’s Lab), each participant of the discussion was supposed to represent different trends in modern fact-checking. Mevan Babakar from Full Fact showed how fact-checking can be improved by the use of automatization, Itziar Bernaola – deputy director of El Obietivo – described the algorithm of fact-checking that was implemented in Spain. Julien Pain – editor-in-chief at Observers France 24 introduced examples of information that needs fact-checking and the ways how “fakes” can be recognized. Giovanni Zagni from Pagella Politica described examples of big fact-checking campaigns worldwide.

The panel started with Mark Stencel giving the general information about the fact-checking in the world. For instance, there are more than 102 fact-checking campaigns running and the majority of them are organized in the United States. “Generally, if we are talking about fact-checking, we mean organizations, which are trying to verify information, especially the one which was issued by powerful entities and politicians”, said Stencel. He also stated, that about 90% of fact-checking in the USA is done by journalists.

Julien Pain, who continued discussion after Mark Stencel, is working with amateur images which the users take by phones. In case of breaking news, as Pain said, amateur images come first, then the material is going through the representatives of his team and after that the reporter is going on the ground

Now 6.000 people cooperate with Observers France 24 and send their images. There are also images in social media, which were not made by these observers. The problem is how do journalists check this material. There should be a team that really verifies.

“With the network of people I have around the world, it was also extremely handful to verify information”, said Pain. He also pointed out, that after the attacks in Paris everybody realized in France, that there were so many fake stories in social media, which were sometimes even intercepted by the traditional media. The need of verification in journalism became obvious. Checking of information is extremely important in a democratic society. Journalists nowadays have to learn the techniques of verifying information according to Pain. “This is no longer for journalists and small room geeks, this is for all journalists”. Once fake information is published or broadcasted, the credibility is lost.

Itziar Bernaola presented the work of the Spanish TV show El Obietivo. The show is concentrated on politics and economics, carries out investigations and is based on data journalism. “Data journalism on TV is kinda difficult, but I think, we made it”, said Bernaola. The show has high ratings and is weekly broadcasted in primetime. Big advantage of fact-checking on TV according Bernaola is that big audience can be reached. She also said, that at El Obiectivo they “try to make fact-checking entertaining”.

There are three most important segments in the show:

– Newsroom: journalists are finding things and checking them.

– Experts: commenting on the claims.

– Graphics: visualization is very important on TV.

Giovanni Zagni presented some examples of fact-checking worldwide. For instance, during the G20 summit 12 fact-checking outlets from 10 countries were analyzing the statements to the press made by the world leaders. Every outlet rated with its own system.

Another example is the refugee check. The object of analysis in that case was how different EU countries were portraying one another in the handling of the refugee crisis. The objects of fact-checking were 5 statements in 5 languages. As a result, the fact-checking campaign was broadcasted by German TV show Heute plus, ZDF.

Zagni also referred to St. Petersburg based international fact-checking project at Poynter. It was launched in 2015. The fields of study are:

– Using technology to turbo-power fact-checking

– Measuring the impact

– Funding

– Ethics

Mevan Babakar from Full Fact decided to start her presentation with the definition of fact-checking, which is sometimes understood in different ways. According to her, fact-checking is examining the claims made in the public sphere and it is about “adding the shades of grey between black and white”. Babakar also pointed out, that the trust in journalism is declining now. And the audience can either “blindly trust anything or be blindly skeptical”. The solution to the problem is fact-checking.

The algorithm of this work is “Find claims, check claims, make content”.

In Full Fact the attempt was made to make part of fact-checking process automated. Particularly finding claims can be done with a specific search engine. The team of Full Fact obtains copies of newspapers and statements made by the Parliament, so the search can be organized within that data. Right now automated search still needs humans.

In conclusion the panel agreed that in order to make fact-checking effective, journalists should learn about its automation, make this process more transparent and try to target the sources of fake information to stop its circulation.

Victoria Kolesnichenko