In the age of fake news, misinformation and propaganda, benefiting from the explosion in available dissemination of unaccountable digital applications, it has become impossible to weed out the fake from the true the correct from the manipulated information often praying on an audience that lacks the knowledge and the tools to tell the difference. The result is a less well informed society, less cohesive communities and often less stable relationships from the workplace to the political centres of power. Toxic information has become a polluting factor in our everyday life.
The idea of Fact-Checking was an idea born by a bunch of motivated individuals that decided to help put a stop to social media disinformation in a collective way, that could help reduce world crisis and polarisation.
In a session during Arij’s 15th annual forum Ferdi Ozsoy, programs director at International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), explained in a session entitled “Why We Created the International Fact-Checking Network”, the genesis of Fact checking saying that it was born in a handful of countries by people determined to combat misinformation, and today it includes 130+ organisations operating in more than 65 countries.
In a world marred by divergent narrative where truth suddenly had many facets, IFCN developed to become a shield dispelling inaccuracies and faulty or manufactured truth, based on a stringent code of principles that embraced transparency, regarding the funding of its actors and the methodology it thrived to make as public as possible in the service of authentication of information and events while swearing non-partisanship, always ready to correct mistakes where and if those happen to occur due to fact checking.
Ozsoy explained how the international network has developed to not only providing the community of fact-checkers the necessary tools, most of which are free, but also have worked to promote the safety of Journalists, providing those in need with legal assistance to defend themselves in areas of complex freedom of speech curbs, making available a communication play book for journalists and fact checking entities to offer them means to deal with crisis when they occur. All that in addition to training and mentoring opportunities and funds to support such initiatives.
In a media landscape that is constantly evolving, where the organs and machines of states and non-state actors are adapting to the information battles, IFCN’s tools and collaborative communities have helped provide journalists and society another shield of armour and protection permitting fact checking actors to better discover deep fake and other machine manipulations. Ozsoy insisted that his organisation is not in conflict with journalists or media organs as in principle all advocate for the facts as all work research and investigate to bring the facts to light. And in the difference between fact and truth, Ozsoy insisted that facts are facts, and the truth in his opinion could be subjective as it includes the individual feelings regarding the events or facts in question.
In a turbulent and changing world witnessing polarisation unseen since the cold war, where audience search for facts only to endorse their biases, and where information wars are part of the battle tactics deployed by state and non state actors, benefiting from open source and rogue digital tools to manipulate, disinform, and deflect, the media realm therefore could only benefit from the efforts made by fact checkers to dispel bulks of erroneous data that has been seeping and polluting the public domain.