9 – WHAT IS FACT CHECKING?
Fact checking is a practice that involves verifying in real time whether the facts politicians, public figures, and experts present to the media are true and their numbers are correct.
Fact checking is also a way of assessing the level of objectivity in the media’s treatment of information. It has become common practice in recent years in order to fight the spread of fake news.
Verifying facts has proven to be indispensable with the growth of digital technology and social media for two reasons: firstly, it has become increasingly less difficult to manipulate information and images; secondly, it is also very easy to achieve massive spread with social media (every minute, 350,000 tweets are posted to Twitter).
Fact checking may be a good tool to help us distinguish truth from fiction, but it is not impossible for the journalists who do the fact checking to get things wrong or simply not be able to truly verify some facts. Once again, caution is to be encouraged and critical thinking engaged so that you can figure out when to trust a media fact checker and when to get a broader view of an issue.
CASE IN POINT
In most countries, there are media outlets or entities that specialise in fact checking, sometimes focussing on particular topics (international affairs, science, environment, etc.). The Balkans region has a number of fact-checking bodies:
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Raskrinkavanje.ba
North Macedonia: Metamorphosis Foundation
It is also worth noting that some outlets have increased their activities and partnerships in light of the barrage of fake news unleashed during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, Facebook has launched a programme to ‘check facts and fight misinformation’ that comprises 70 certified fact-checking bodies from around the world. Articles identified as fake are demoted to the bottom of the newsfeed. Once demoted, the average number of views for these fake news items decreases by over 80%.