It’s time to look for solutions

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By Cristina Tardáguila

I’ve been a fact-checker for almost 10 years, and I can honestly say that we should stop spending time analysing the causes of mis/disinformation. Let’s use all our energy to find and test solutions.

It’s widely known that falsehoods travel fast, don’t respect barriers, take advantage of our highly connected planet and use social media algorithms too. So, instead of sitting around and complaining about the harm caused by the disinformation disorder, let’s work hard to reduce its impact.

Fact-checkers have decided to collaborate. To work together and to share knowledge in order to be faster. Since January, when the world was presented to the new coronavirus, 99 fact-checking organizations from more than 70 countries decided it was time to help each other and work as one big and international newsroom. This is how the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, coordinated by the International Fact-Checking Network, was born.

For the last 9 months, fact-checkers worked in 43 languages and 16 time zones as a single team, inputting their articles into a shared database so others could translate and republish. In simple words, instead of starting to assess a claim from zero, fact-checkers could first see if their partners, in other regions of the planet, had already fact-checked that content. If so, they could simply reuse it because all fact-checkers agreed to collaborate.

In the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, fact-checkers have debunked 9,000 pieces of content that were false. Alone, none of the organizations could have done that.

Moreover, based on this collaborative effort, the IFCN managed to create four WhatsApp chatbots — so people in different countries could easily access the databases that were being used by fact-checkers to do their work.

Nowadays, citizens who speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi can freely communicate with IFCN’s Covid Chatbot and not only read the latest fact-checks published by 99 organizations on the planet but also search for specific information they might need.

By analyzing the data gathered by the CoronaVirusFacts, the IFCN was also able to write about what is now called the nine waves of misinformation seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information collected by fact-checkers in more than 70 countries show that humankind struggled with hoaxes regarding the origin of the new coronavirus, then panicked with videos and photos of people fainting in subways and supermarkets. Later the world was hit (and still is) by numerous falsehoods regarding false cures and false preventative measures and a lot of mis/disinformation about China. The fifth and sixth waves were about race, religion and e-commerce, while the seventh and eight, about politicians and the re-opening movement. The latest trend in mis/disinformation, according to the data collected by the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, relates to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Collaboration, again, is the key to face these issues, and fact-checkers are ready to keep working together.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

Cristina Tardáguila is the International Fact-Checking Network’s Associate Director. She was born in May 1980, in Brazil, and has lived in Rio de Janeiro for most of her life. Since 2014, Tardáguila has dedicated her professional life to verification. She is the founder of Agência Lupa, the first fact-checking initiative in her country, and also responsible for LupaEducação, its educational branch.

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