Applause for fact-checking networks and trainers!
We also bring you recent reports on Meta and updates from Morocco where authorities are circumventing law to punish dissent.
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy.
In this edition, we’d like to highlight the Latin American Network of Fact-checking Trainers from Argentina, Mexico, Columbia and Peru who have come together to train university professors in fact-checking. The aim is for the journalists and professors to act as multipliers in training 500 students in these countries.
In Morocco, authorities are punishing opposition bloggers and journalists using the Penal Code instead of the Press and Publishing Law, which does not recommend prison penalties.
We also bring you updates on Meta, which may have made millions out of ad revenue from networks of fake accounts it removed from its own platforms. In another development, Meta may shut down CrowdTangle, its tool for fact-checkers and researchers to find misinformation and viral posts.
Finally, a major update from Global Fact 9, the first in-person conference for fact-checkers in 2 years, where the #FactsFirstPH coalition from the Philippines won the award for Most Innovative and Impactful Collaboration. As a technology partner in the coalition, Meedan is extremely proud of this recognition, having joined hands with Rappler and other groups in fighting disinformation to set up the coalition ahead of the Philippine elections in May.
If there are updates you would like us to share from your country or region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In an effort to bring fact-checking techniques to Latin American universities, the Argentine organization Chequeado, with the support of Google News Initiative, invited news organizations Verificado (from Mexico), Colombia Check (from Colombia), Convoca and Ojo Público (both from Peru) to form a 'Latin American network of fact-checking trainers,' which will allow journalists and university professors from these countries to act as multipliers.
"We created a course for teachers in these four countries. The idea is that each teacher will then take this information to the classroom. The minimum goal we set ourselves is to reach 500 students. We don't want it to be just theory. Rather, we want them to really learn to write a story following the methodology. We hope to create a project that can scale, so journalism degrees in the region can increasingly begin to incorporate this content.” — Milena Rosenzvit, coordinator of Chequeado's education program, told Latam Journalism Review (LJR)
Freedom of blogging and expression has become more restricted in Morocco, due to the heavy charges against bloggers and activists who peacefully expressed critical opinions via social media posts. A blogger was recently sentenced to six months in prison due to a Facebook post in which he described security forces as "authoritarian” during the quarantine period. Another activist was sentenced to three months in prison because of a video she posted on Facebook and YouTube about possible human trafficking networks disguised as tourism in Marrakesh.
“These trials are unfair because they fall under the freedom of opinion, expression and the press — freedoms protected by the law and the constitution.” — Layer Souad Brahma
The #FactsFirstPH coalition was awarded Most Innovative and Impactful Collaboration at the Global Fact 9, an annual international fact-checking conference. The first-of-a-kind initiative has four key layers: fact-checking, amplification or mesh, research, and deterrence. This allows the coalition to maximize the impact of fact-checking.
“The [#FactsFirstPH] collaboration program was unique in the sense that it brings different stakeholders from the Philippines to combat mis- and disinformation before the Filipino elections and that’s, I believe, why the Global Fact 9 participants voted as the Most Innovative Collaboration of this year,” — Baybars Orsek, director of the IFCN.
Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook owns the search tool CrowdTangle. The tool is used by fact-checkers, journalists and researchers to find misinformation and viral content on social media including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit. Meta has been reducing its support for the product and is expected to eventually scrap it.
Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public, said if Facebook must power down CrowdTangle, she hopes the company would “create a viable alternative,” which she said does not exist so far, and “give researchers and journalists time to redesign their workflows around the new tool.” Not providing one would “significantly limit” the ability of researchers to help others counter real-time misinformation and could lead to voters being manipulated.
Between July 2018 and April 2022, Meta made at least $30.3 million in ad revenue from networks it removed from its own platforms for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB), data compiled by WIRED shows. The social media giant banned accounts promoting disinformation, spam, or propaganda—and kept the money it made from ads.
“Over the last five years we’ve shared information about over 150 covert influence operations that we removed for violating our coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) policy. Transparency is an important tool to counter this behavior, and we'll continue to take action and report publicly," — Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta
“It’s strategic transparency. They get to come out and say they're helping researchers and they're fighting misinformation on their platforms, but they're not really showing the whole picture.” — Sarah Kay Wiley, a researcher at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
What’s new at Meedan
Meedanis at Global Fact 9
Ed Bice - CEO, Dima Saber - Program and Impact Director, Eric Mugendi - Program Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, Pierre Conti - Director of Product represented Meedan at Global Fact 9. We were thrilled to meet several of our partners at the conference.
Ed Bice spoke in the panel with Ekta, a consortium of six Indian fact-checking groups and Meedan. Ekta shared reflections on one year of running the consortium and key insights from running a fact-check training for 350 journalism students in the country.
Dima Saber was part of the panel which shared views of fact-checking as a field today from different angles and contexts–actors, practices, tools, funding, regions.