GlobalFact 9 launches in Norway with a big question: how does fact-checking help?
OSLO, Norway – Academic and practical attention to the discipline of fact-checking has burst into the mainstream. Many fact-checkers got their start in 2016 scrutinizing the US presidential election, and the International Fact-Checking Network was founded a year earlier.
With the simultaneous emergence of thousands of research papers on misinformation, disinformation, and fact-checking, many scholars and fact-checkers are asking themselves a question: how does this help?
To kick off the ninth edition of the GlobalFact fact-checking conference, a panel of researchers, professors and practicing fact-checkers gathered in Oslo on Wednesday to discuss the gap between research and practice.
“Academic research isn’t always written in easy-to-understand or very illuminating language,” said Lucas Graves, professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Academics don’t always focus their research on the kinds of practical questions that are really, urgently important to real-world organizations on the ground.”
The panel’s fact checkers expressed a desire to replicate some of the studies that have been conducted in the United States and Western Europe, but not the rest of the world.
“Don’t assume the results will be the same in different political and cultural contexts,” Graves tweeted shortly after the discussion. “More research on disinformation and fact-checking in offline media remains extremely important in countries in the South and North. Do not look for answers only under the lamp post, that is to say social networks.
“Having these kinds of conversations — between academics and people doing the work — is so worthwhile,” said Georgetown professor Leticia Bode, who studies social media misinformation.
Another topic of discussion, in addition to extracting practical use from academic studies, was how much more research needs to be done.
“Apart from having very little information on the lasting impacts (of fact-checking) and the impacts on groups of people over time, we have almost nothing on how often particular people encounter fact checks in nature,” Graves said.
Other panelists included Olivia Sohr, Director of Impact at Chequeado; Hlalani Gumpo, Impact Manager at Africa Check; Hlalani Gumpo; and Tijana Cvjetićanin, head of research at Zašto ne.
Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, kicked off the day’s events with a speech about what the facts really are and how they relate to power and politics. Donovan discussed the importance of symbology within the group in online memes as well as the far-right group the Proud Boys and comedian Sam Hyde, known for his internet hoaxes following mass shootings.
A panel of speakers also spoke in turn about technology and fact-checking, presenting interesting data on the factors that drive engagement success among publications that publish variations on the same story, as well as research. automated fact-checking.
In the afternoon, there were panels on the influence of social media platforms on the ability to identify, verify and disseminate fact checks; a review of future fact-checking research needs; and a panel discussing fact-checking as a discipline from multiple perspectives, including “contexts, actors, practice tools, funding and regions.”
GlobalFact 9 continues Thursday with an opening conversation between Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer-winning journalist and historian, and Neil Brown, president of the Poynter Institute, with introductory comments from international director of fact-checking Baybars Örsek.