In September 2018 a wide group of different European fact-checking efforts met in Brussels to debate different approaches and to prepare network(s) for fact-based European elections 2019. What is the state of play now – with the elections just 3 weeks away? What kind of networks are running or still in the making? We compared the 4 transnational election focused networks.
This overview uses as an analytical tool IFCN characterisation of different approaches with focusing either on fact-checking, on pre-emptive verification (closest link to classical journalism) or on debunking clear European election related hoaxes.
Picture: Different approaches to evaluate the truthfulness (IFCN)
Next to chosen approach, the geographical coverage, funding, durance and lead partner(s) were compared based on what was announced by the 4 networks on their websites.Check yourself?
Table: List of transnational networks to tackle mis- and disinformation in European elections or after it
| | | | | | |
| — | — | — | — | — | — |
| Factcheck EU | media outlets fact-checking for you | 13 EU countries (19 media outlets ) | Poynter, Google, Open
Society Initiative for Europe, IFCN (NB. coalition with most
Facebook 3rd party fact-checkers) | 2019 elections | IFCN /Poynter, US | | European disinformation observatory | Technological infrastructure based on the collaborative verification platform,now SOMA. | To be announced | EC SOMA Horizon 2020 -project, EU (–2020) | Longterm perspective,Not yet operational
for 2019 elections | [Consortium](https://www.disinfobservatory.org/#somaproject) (Truly Media), EU | | Cross Check Europe | Collaborative online Verification Newsroom | To be announced | First Draft News, US | No joint publishing for 2019 elections, perspective unknown | First Draft, US | | EU Factcheck | Educational fact-checking project among journalism schools | 10+ EU countries, 2 non-EU (17+ journalism schools) | European Journalism Training Association, EJTA, EU | 2019 elections | EJTA, EU |
As one can observe, there is no single approach in “European fact-checking” as there is no “ministry of truth”, but at least all these can be considered serious networks working methodologically towards the truth via transparency and non-partisanship. Differences between networks appear also in sources of funding and lead partner origin, while none of them reaches true EU coverage based on the information available (9.5.2019). The impact can be evaluated only afterwards. Worrying is the low participation from especially Eastern European countries outside separate the thematic Femfacts project.
European elections and information disorders – special case?
European elections are widely seen as the next showcase on how resilient the European democracies are to mis- and disinformation. EU affairs been less known while election systems and campaigns predominantly national, European elections are seen particularly vulnerable to hostile disinformation activities aimed to divide and rule EU.
However, next to legitimate fears about third country interference to European elections, on cannot forget misinformation and populism by established national stakeholders. Consequently institutional EU Stratcom-like approaches focused on external influence are not enough while transparent civil society and journalistically driven networks are crucial part to build trust via transparency.
Faktabaari (FactBar) complementary angle:
Faktabaari has contributed in awareness raising, fact-checking and digital media literacy since 2014 European elections. It complements or contributes to the above mentioned networks in their pursuit for fact-based public debate. It encourages verification specialist to link fact-checking and digital media literacy approaches to empower critical thinking. We believe our approach for scrutiny of elections can be applied next to fact-checking or verifying claims and it can be summarised in the table below. Likeminded efforts were recently tabled also under EduCheck project by Argentinian Chequeado while Faktabaari EDU EU elections related material was linked toCNN report on Finnish efforts on “sorting fact from fiction”.
Checklist: Faktabaari (FactBar) engaging social media users to check and hint on information disorders
Next step after elections – evaluation?
After the elections it would be important to evaluate at least the projects with the longest perspective in comparison to other projects. A healthy and operational starting point could be to evaluate them next to the commonly shared IFCN transparency principles. Ultimately this should prepare for next transnational EU elections 2024 within even more demanding digital environment. In the future the privacy driven microtargeting of mis- and disinformation is expected to play an even bigger role. In 2019 elections this aspect is tested independently but in few EU countries. Faktabaari has worked with Open Knowledge Finland Vaalivahti project.
Mis- and disinformation are here to stay and citizens need help and empowerment perhaps more than ever. We can all contribute by remembering our digital privacy, while respecting media that seeks maximum transparency and independence to attain public trust. Let’s remember to check the content before sharing it in social media. No one wants to get fooled.
For fact-based public European election debate and against disinformation.
Faktabaari (FactBar), Founder
Avoin yhteiskunta ry, Chair
Former Member of the independent EU High-Level Group on Online Disinformation that issued March 2018 Multi-dimensional approach to tackling online disinformation.
More information on different types of European efforts to tackle online disinformation follow @FactBar twitter lists.
Blog post is to be updated with new information e.g. on networks – feedback: [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com)
Update 24.5. on [_European disinformation observatory_](https://www.disinfobservatory.org/) and Cross Check Europe not yet publishing joint efforts in view of the 2019 EU elections.
Update 25.5. Information on Cross Check platform updated from “not yet operational for EU elections” to the text above.