During the 8th, 9th and 10th of March, Chicas Poderosas organized an open-door event focusing on inclusion, citizenship and gender in Brazil. We looked at how to fact-check in Brazil and in Latin America in 2018, how to determine the veracity of information, and what is behind the data.
Among the incredible mentors and mentees on the first day: Cristina Tardáguila, director of Agência Lupa, the first fact-checking agency in Brazil; Patricia Figueiredo, reporter for Agencia Publica; Tainã Nalon, co-founder of Aos Fatos; Fernando Rodríguez, journalist from Poder360; Yael Steiner, creator of Creative Fucks; Debora Albu, researcher at ITS Rio; Lia Valero, Eliana Vaca and Carolina Gómez, creators of the check platform on WhatsApp El Poder de Elegir; the amazing team of Meedan developers from Brazil; and Mario Kanno, infographic from Estudio Kanno. (Meet our mentors from the first day.)
Take a look to all the amazing conferences durgin the event here: https://youtu.be/Gz2fqif8DuM
There is no investigative journalism without fact-checking
Cristina Tardáguila, director of Agencia Lupa, talked about the importance of fact-checking. For her, to verify it is enough to be passionate and dedicated to the facts. There are different degrees of complexity in this discipline, but it is not always difficult to verify facts. For example, we looked at a photo that was believed to have been taken last year in Nepal by Na Son Nguyen. By using Tineye, we were able to discover in 1.4 seconds that the photo had been on the Internet only from March 30 at the earliest and that it had not been taken in Nepal.
Cristina shared five basic tips that she says are the minimum people need to know about fact-checking:
- Hesitate when you hear about data that don’t have a clear source.
- Hesitate when you hear that A causes B. It’s like saying everyone who is poor steals. Those types of generalizations can’t be made.
- Pay attention to absolute and relative numbers. The data are in mutation and are always being modified.
- Expressions like “it’s the best in the world or the worst in the world” should generate panic.
- Beware of broad concepts. For example, the bad crisis that Brazil is experiencing. But what are the indicators that define a crisis and the level of the crisis?
“We need more soldiers in the art of fact-checking that learn how verify and accept to be multipliers of the methodology and the tools”, said @ctardaguila at #ChicasInvestiga. She is founder of @agencialupa, the first fact-check news agency in Brazil. pic.twitter.com/uF7FBqQ4dd
— Chicas Poderosas (@poderosaschicas) March 8, 2018
The investigative journalism agency
In her talk, Patricia Figueiredo of Agencia Publica spoke about the Truco Project, which collected comments from public and political personalities to see how those comments influence the debate. This project, started in 2014, now verifies comments made not only of politicians, but also of celebrities and WhatsAPP messages. It also tracks the circulation of content on social networks without distinguishing the party or ideology, with the goal of holding politicians and public figures responsible for what they say and their decision-making.
Agencia Publica is a non-profit project that also does investigative reports under the banner of non-partisanship, transparency and human rights. “The verification of these politicians is not going to prevent them from lying. They are going to continue lying. But it can prevent the circulation of bots that massify that information,” said Patricia during the event.
One of the important contributions of Agencia Publica is the facilitation of access to information. The data we need for verification is not always public. So, what we do with this exercise is to make data available so that anyone can consult it. (See here some examples of the checks made by this wonderful team.)
Aos Fatos, looking for the truth in politics
Tai Nalon is one of the co-founders of Aos Fatos, a fact-checking project launched in 2015. It emerged fairly quickly from a fairly embryonic idea. She and her team started operations at the lowest possible cost to show that independent journalism can be possible.
“I think one of the reasons that Aos Fatos is successful is because it has a coherent history. It is made up of people who really believe in journalism. We have not had anyone leave our team and that is an achievement in an environment where it has been difficult to grow, an environment with few funders and generally the same funders.”
To reach as many people as possible, they did a survey of more than 800 people who answered a random form to show the importance of fact-checking.
Among the findings of the study, they found that only 17% of the people surveyed always question the information they consume. They also learned that people do not know how journalism is done: the process of reporting, editing and decision-making. “People want to know the primary and reliable sources of information, to know more about the environment where certain news was published, to go through as many media as possible, to understand the process of debugging news,” Tai explained.
In 2018, the Fatima project began, as a result of a partnership with Facebook in the area of new literacy. We are trying to develop artificial intelligence on Facebook Messenger to help people verify content. Fatima gives advice on fact-checking to anyone.
Poder 360, an independent journalism platform
Fernando Rodrigues, a journalists with Poder360, is one of the mentors who participated in the fact-checking event. “Without a model of professional journalism that is independent from the editorial and financial point of view, there will be no fact-checking that will endure. The two things have to work together,” said Fernando, who considers himself stubbornly fixated on finding an independent journalism model.
Today, the Poder360 team has 30 people, 24 of them journalists. And like many independent projects and media, Poder360 also has faced one of the greatest challenges: finding a sustainable model that will allow more people to participate in this journalistic exercise.
For Fernando, the wave of false news is going to be very large and there will be no defenses and not enough fact-checking companies. “It’s a very big job. If people do not really want to have the right information, they will not have it. Therefore, the role of both professionals who do verification and companies that seek and pursue traditional journalism – within the canons of seeking news objectively – it is very important and complementary work. I am an extreme pessimist in the sense of being able to fulfill the mission of informing Brazilian society well,” he said. “I do not believe that social institutions are carriers of the stream of the fake news. That is a citizen decision.”