Journalism and fact-checking

05. Fatabyyano: joining forces with platforms to fight disinformation /

Fact-checking can be approached in a variety of ways, with particular problems arising, depending on local conditions. In the Philippines, the situation within the media ecosystem is a delicate one. Since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, the country has tumbled down the World Press Freedom Index, run by the NGO Reporters Without Borders. Now ranked 136th, the situation could get even worse. And it’s no surprise. The president set the tone in his inaugural speech: “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.” “Freedom of expression cannot help you.”

After targeting the Daily Philippines Inquirer newspaper, the Duterte administration engaged in a violent campaign of judicial harassment against the Rappler news site and its founder, Maria Ressa. In the Arabic-speaking world, misinformation is spreading like wildfire, sometimes encouraged by those in power. Fortunately, some sites specialising in fact-checking have emerged to fight this scourge. One of the main ones is Fatabyyano, a very popular platform on social networks founded by 25-year-old Jordanian Moath Al Taher, a YouTuber and social entrepreneur. This medical student’s oft-stated objective is to help produce a generation of citizens with heightened critical awareness by fighting false information on social networks and distributing reliable content verified by experts.

Moath Althaher – Founder of Fatabyyano – Jordania

Actually, Fatabyyano as a fact-checking platform is not just a project, it’s a solution. A solution to a problem we’re all facing as individuals or societies, which is fake news. In the last decades, we have found that fake news is not a simple issue, or an innocent problem. It actually has a main… a main purpose which is to cause… hate speech, violence and a lot of issues. So I think we established Fatabyyano to be a solution to a problem every one of us is facing: fake news and misinformation. As we are living in the age of fake news, and we are now, as we said… As we have transitioned from the age of information to the age of misinformation, projects like Fatabyyano have become necessary. In addition to that, as Fatabyyano is… an independent Arabian fact-checking platform, we are focusing on twenty countries in the Middle East. The Middle East is an area where there are conflicts, wars, and a few hundred million Internet users, we believe that projects like Fatabyyano should play a big role in… In educating people about the dangers of fake news, as well as the importance of fact-checking and supporting your… your words with evidence. In regard to our partnership with Facebook, we have established a partnership with Facebook in March 2019, as part of a bigger program called: “Third-party fact-checking program” in which Facebook works with independent fact checkers certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, to take part in this project. So we work with Facebook and 19 countries in the Middle East.

In Africa and elsewhere, health issues are at the heart of a lot of misinformation. Like anti-vaxxers, for example, who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated, fearing that the vaccines are useless, or worse, harmful. Diomma Dramé is a fact-checker who specialises in health issues. On behalf of the AfricaCheck platform, she scours the region’s social networks in Senegal to track down and verify on misleading content.

Diomma Dramé – Reporter – Africa Check – Senegal

Two things are crucial for me. First, we have to raise awareness among the population and encourage people to be critical by carrying out fact checks, as we do, verifying information and statements. The second thing we must do is re-educate the media. With everyone so caught up in their lives, working under pressure to meet deadlines, few journalists have the time to make thorough checks, so it’s easy to disseminate false information. For citizens and others, AfricaCheck does a remarkable job because increasingly on social networks, when a new post appears, someone is bound to come along and ask: “Where did you get this figure from?” or “What’s your source?” We think that by reading about AfricaCheck, hearing our reports on the radio, people realise how important it is to ask questions and not take as gospel what they see on the net. So that’s my take on the fight against false information.

As we have seen, even if working conditions are often difficult, and the task a daunting one, everyone is driven by enthusiasm and unwavering determination. We hope that will be the case for all of you after watching these interviews. 

A CFI project in partnership with France Médias Monde

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