Fact checking Academics join in the fight against fake news


Journalists Susan Misicka, left, and Thomas Stephens, in background to the right, at work in swissinfo.ch's Bern headquarters

Journalists Susan Misicka, left, and Thomas Stephens, in background to the right, at work in swissinfo.ch's Bern headquarters

(swissinfo.ch)

Manipulated images that proliferate online. False claims and content shared on social media or private messaging apps. Financially or politically motivated hoaxes and fake stories.

It is an increasing challenge for news organisations to police the misleading and false information or huge amounts of unverified user-generated content that can spread like wildfire through social networks and other online media with devastating consequences.

A new partnership of academics involving swissinfo.chexternal link, the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), has joined with others to address “fake news”, an increasing concern around the world. It is part of First Draft Newsexternal link, a US-based non-profit project, launched in June 2015.

The project already involves more than 100 newsrooms around the world, including some of the largest global organisations. It also encompasses some of the largest social platforms, human rights groups and other fact-checking and verification projects around the world.

Swiss partners

This month, the project announced a new academic partner network with 32 schools and departments extending from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, Sydney to Dublin and California to Sheffield.

“There is so much work to do and the only way we are going to get anywhere is by collaborating on solutions,” wrote Claire Wardle of First Draft in an online statementexternal link. “While it’s tempting to jump instinctively to conclusions about what will work, a real and lasting solution is going to take time.”

Included in the First Draft coalition is the European Union-funded PHEME projectexternal link, which is helping journalists to separate fact from fiction in an ambitious project that applies big data analytics with advanced linguistic and visual methods.

As a partner within the PHEME project, swissinfo.ch is testing some of the new technologies and feeding information to tech companies and academics about what kinds of tools that journalists could use to verify user-generated content.

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