our takeaway from a year-long project investigating misinformation

In our review briefing, the grand finale in a series of research assignments on fact checking and misinformation, we capture the key findings and summarize the takeaways in an easily accessible checklist. We also identify key gaps, including the need for more fact-checking research from the Global South to steer us on a path of evidence-informed fact-checking.

In 2019, Africa Check, Chequeado and Full Fact embarked on a year-long research project to get to the heart of many important questions we ask ourselves as fact checkers.

During this period, we have published 11 briefings examining burning issues for the community of facts, such as who believes and shares misinformation, what the impact and possible solutions to misinformation are on health, and what is known about conspiracy theories.

Each piece has been reviewed by experts in the field, who advise us on the latest academic developments in each subject area and what to consider. We have also reached out to relevant fact checkers, academic institutions, media organizations and participated in opportunities to spread the news about this work and how it can inform our practice.

In us Overview Briefing we summarize what we have learned from the publication of the 11 information sessions and make use of six important findings:

Some audiences are more vulnerable to misinformation than others, but a certain bias towards believing in things that are repeated is easy to process and in line with our worldview, makes us all prone to a certain degree of misinformation to believe.

Fact check that identifies what is wrong, explains why and gives the correct answer is most effective in updating beliefs.

For lengthy debates, corrections can be an uphill battle. There is mixed evidence on the role of fact-checking in updating beliefs for some types of misinformation, such as misinformation about vaccines and conspiracies, and little evidence on the role of fact-checking in changing behaviors linked to these beliefs. For these claims, the most effective approach is to prevent them from arising and spreading.

How we present fact checks is important. Despite the emergence of a multitude of media formats, it seems that articles that place the most important information at the top, avoid jargon and keep distractions to a minimum, are the most effective way to convey information.

Media and information literacy programs show promise. Interventions with young and adult participants, including long-term class training or just short training online, were found to improve the audience’s ability to think more critically about the information they encounter. We need more research to determine how these assessed skills translate into real-world behavior.

Fact-checking can influence the behavior of politicians. We need to better understand the circumstances that make it effective and how to make it a lasting effect.

Usually editors and fact checkers chase after deadlines. Therefore, we summarized the results in a checklist one page discuss the different steps in fact checking from production to publicity. We hope it is a useful resource for practitioners to have their daily work at hand.

We have distilled the main lessons for fact-checkers based on all the evidence collected, evaluated and analyzed during the period:

Step 1: Production

Act quickly, with the aim of setting up the fact check early on to reduce the likelihood of inaccurate claims being repeated. If you are looking for corrections, it is significantly more effective if it comes from the same source that provided the wrong information.

Step 2: Content

Explain to your audience why there is something wrong with updating their long-term knowledge. Define your heading as the answer you want your audience to remember, and be sure to include a clear object, a claim, a clear statement on the accuracy of the claim and an outline of the verdict where possible. . It’s OK to be transparent about what you do not know, but specify where uncertainty lies.

Step 3: Format

An image can draw attention to social media, but only contains images that support your conclusions to make it easier to remember the conclusions of your fact-checking. Yet text is best for conveying information. In particular, with a clean layout that does not distract your attention. Use short paragraphs with single columns.

Step 4: Publicity

Try to focus on disinformation your audience may have heard rather than facilitating unfounded claims too much. Always ask yourself: is the claim worth the attention? Is there a fire to put out, or do we add the smoke?

We also encountered challenges and identified gaps in research and research areas for future investigation.

Our research looked at the academic literature from psychology, political science, education, health and communication studies – a diverse group of disciplines that often did not pay attention to fact-checking as a practice.

Therefore, we need more studies that fit the characteristics of our work. Many studies are also done in laboratories and under experimental conditions, which ensure internal validity, but it is not clear how it applies to the actual contexts in which incorrect information is disseminated.

Fact-checking gap in the Global South

In addition, research tends to cover the most developed countries, especially the US, disproportionately. However, fact-checking has developed and expanded around the world. According to the Duke Reporters’ Lab, by October 2020, there were 304 initiatives in 84 countries, including 82 in Asia, 40 in South America and 21 in Africa. One of the major common gaps identified in this work, therefore, is the lack of research on fact-checking in the Global South, including the regional and cultural contexts, and the extent to which it requires different responses from fact-checkers.

During the project we aimed to give insight and recommendations to practitioners. However, our briefings show that there is room for improvement when it comes to investigating facts. We only see this as the beginning of an honest conversation about what we are doing and how we can better deal with the problem of misinformation. Fact researchers, researchers, and funders can advance these discussions and research agendas to develop a more evidence-based approach to fact-checking.

Further reading:

Fact check studies

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