Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global fact-checkers unite to battle disinformationBy Niyi Oyedeji on March 3, 2022
WHEN Russia invaded Ukraine last week, several disinformations were in circulation which prompted the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to swing into action.
The IFCN is a body that brings together about 120 fact-checking organisations and advocates of factual information from across the world in the fight against misinformation and disinformation.
Over the past few days, fact-checkers around the globe have fact-checked over 400 misinformation/disinformation contents that centred on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. They range from images, videos and text which are not only fake but out-of-place, Poynter reports.
Jiménez Cruz, co-founder and CEO of Maldita.es, a Spanish nonprofit news organization aimed at combating disinformation through fact-checking and data journalism said the spate of disinformation occasioned by the crisis made his team and other fact-checkers get to work.
“We saw that there was a lot of work to be done, and this disinformation was not only being debunked by fact-checkers in Spain but also in other countries,” she said.
The Maldita team sent a message to a listserv belonging to Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. With a spreadsheet, they invited other fact-checkers to enter disinformation they’ve debunked.
“We know that when fact-checkers collaborate among themselves, the work is much more effective and we can also gather better information about which kind of disinformation is circulating,” she added.
The outcome birthed Ukrainefacts.org, a database of fact-checks on the Ukraine-Russia mis/disinformation created by Maldita.
Also called #UkraineFacts, the collaborative effort of verified signatories of IFCN’s Code of Principles is now available to the public for browsing. There’s also a map of the world that users can click on to read about debunked disinformation in different countries.
The IFCN’s director, Baybars Örsek, said dozens of fact-checking organizations contributed to the spreadsheet with their content in the hours after the project was introduced.
“It’s a great reminder that the community is so active, and they were already monitoring a lot of misinformation and disinformation at the beginning of the military operation.”
Orsek added that fact-checking organisations are much better equipped now to handle disinformation around the Ukraine crisis, having gained a great deal of experience in this same kind of work around the coronavirus pandemic.
“The public opinion on this is also very clear … who is the right party in this. But with COVID, it was very challenging — especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Nobody knew what was happening,” Örsek said. “But this time, it was clearly an act of unjust aggression by Russia, so that’s not a big question.”
The misinformation and disinformation around Ukraine include out-of-context images, photos and videos from previous protests or conflicts that are circulating online as if they are happening in the Eastern European country.