Fact checkers need to work together to create better models for distributing our fact checks online

5 October 2020 | Phoebe Arnold

This post is published on the websites of the International Fact-Checking Network (in English, Portuguese and Spanish), Maldita.es (in Spanish) and Full Fact (in English). 

Partnerships with internet platforms are vital for fact checkers that want to connect with bigger audiences and tackle misinformation on the same scale as it is being produced. 

Artificial intelligence helps internet companies spot potential misinformation and connect it to fact checks, while mass distribution technology helps put fact checks in front of people who may never have heard of us before. 

Fact checkers’ traffic and online reach gets a huge boost from Facebook and Google, according to the numbers these companies have quoted about the impact of our fact checks:

“Fact checks appear more than 11 million times a day in Search results globally and in Google News in five countries (Brazil, France, India, U.K. and U.S.). That adds up to roughly 4 billion impressions a year." -- Google blog post, Dec 2019

“During the month of March, we displayed warnings on about 40 million posts related to COVID-19 on Facebook, based on around 4,000 articles by our independent fact-checking partners. When people saw those warning labels, 95% of the time they did not go on to view the original content.” -- Facebook Newsroom update, April 2020

The International Fact-Checking Network hosted a panel during the virtual Global Fact conference this year and co-facilitated a panel with Full Fact to explore how we, fact checkers, want to partner with internet platforms in future, and how we should reconfigure the value of the data we distribute online.

Opening our data for re-use with sustainability in mind

In recent months, several non-profits, as well as commercial organisations, have approached the fact checking community – sometimes via the International Fact-Checking Network, sometimes via small groups emerging out of Global Fact sessions ‒ to ask to use certain data. For example, asking to scrape claim appearances via ClaimReview to display in another context (ClaimReview schema is a tagging system that lets search engines and social media platforms display fact checks elsewhere, e.g. newsfeed or search results). 

It is exciting to see proposals for new ways of applying our work online, but these situations raise some interesting questions about how well equipped with the fact checking community is to respond to these types of proposals. What ethical and legal agreements should be in place for third parties who wish to use this data? While many fact checkers may be happy to donate this data to public-benefit organisations, what happens if some fact checking organisations don’t want to, and do we risk setting a precedent that makes it harder for us to later charge commercial organisations for the same data? If, as an industry, we decide to set up a monetisation structure to cover the extra costs of compiling this data, what form should this take, what is the ownership structure, and who runs it?

Expanding to other platforms under collective principles

During interviews for Full Fact’s report on the Challenges of Online Fact Checking (forthcoming), researchers found that fact checkers see deep value in Facebook’s Third Party Fact-Checking programme beyond money – such as vastly improved monitoring ability, increased public visibility and the ability to influence publishers to correct misinformation. It is no surprise that many are in favour of similar paid, structured programmes being introduced on other platforms.

Some fact checkers at Global Fact floated the possibility of a syndicate, or collectively owned platform to distribute our fact checks and negotiate payment for ratings and appearances data with third parties such as internet companies or other commercial organisations.

Based on our workshop discussions at Global Fact, fact checkers would benefit from having private discussions about the design of new programmes. Fact checkers should also consider what, if any, collective requests we should be making as an industry – for example about standards, transparency commitments, or impact reporting – before potential partners approach us on an individual basis under non-disclosure agreements. Internet companies seldom share publicly available data on the spread of mis-disinformation across their platforms. Research efforts require access to meaningful and up-to-date information. 

Fact checkers need to take time to have these conversations collectively, so that we can have better relationships with internet companies and others in the future. The partnerships, distributions systems and funding models we currently rely on are not finite – nor should they be. Fact checkers hold up standards of integrity and truth in societies, at a time when we cannot take this for granted in any country around the world. We can and should be making decisions now to ensure our effectiveness and existence in the long term.  

The International Fact-Checking Network has reached out to a representative sample of fact checkers across the world to structure those conversations and share insights and suggestions with the broader community. In the next couple of weeks and months, more fact checkers will be invited to take part in 1-1 and collective discussions on some of the fundamental issues and questions pertaining to sustainability and scalability of our efforts as the community.

We see this as supplementary to the efforts of individual fact checking organisations to build stronger and more sustainable paths towards accurate and reliable information in their respective countries. 

Co-bylined by Angie Drobnic Holan (PolitiFact) | North America, Baybars Orsek (International Fact-Checking Network), Clara Jiménez Cruz, (Maldita.es) | Europe, Cristina Tardaguila (International Fact-Checking Network), David Schraven (Correctiv) | Europe, Gemma Mendoza (Rappler) | Asia, Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) | North America, Govindraj Ethiraj (Factchecker.in) | Asia, Gulin Cavus (Teyit) | MENA, Laura Zommer (Chequeado) | Latin America, Noko Makgato (Africa Check) | Africa, Phoebe Arnold (Full Fact) | Europe, Tai Nalon (Aos Fatos) | Latin America, Tijana Cvjetićanin (Zašto ne) | Europe, Will Moy (Full Fact) | Europe


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