Check Desk

It’s time to Fact Check your news using Checkdesk

By Faten Bushehri

-Checkdesk is a fact checking platform that allows media outlets and journalists to verify reports coming from the heart of the action. 

With an overwhelming amount of breaking news and current affairs happening around the world, especially from conflict zones, media outlets have become more dependent on user generated content. While citizen journalism plays a key role in today’s coverage of news from the ground, it is becoming more and more difficult to know what’s true and what’s not.

There were several incidents where a rumor spreads on social media because someone shared a piece of information, but no one fact checked it. The most famous one was by CNN:

And then it turned out to be a mistake:

An article published on the Huffington Post, after CNN had reported spotting an ISIS flag at London's gay pride, mistaking it with a dildo flag.
An article published on the Huffington Post, after CNN had reported spotting an ISIS flag at London’s gay pride, mistakes it with a dildo flag.

And another, also by CNN:

But CNN is not the only one to make such mistakes. With not much access to the ground especially in conflict and war zones, media outlets are bound to depend on user generated content, hoping people would document the truth. After talking to many Syrians, it came to my knowledge that during the five year war in Syria many people took videos of events and claimed it to be of another event and sold it to big news media outlets just because they knew they can get paid for it.

So what is the practical solution to minimize such errors and rumors potentially spreading all over social media? Fact Checking. The basic definition of fact checking according to Wikipedia is:

Wikipedia's definition of fact checking
Wikipedia’s definition of fact checking

 

So, Meedan, a San Francisco based company that ” builds digital tools for global journalism and translation”, introduced a platform where an easy process of fact checking can take place: Checkdesk.

The platform allows journalists and citizen journalists to add information and news bits to the story it relates to. Contributors can access and view the submitted reports and cross fact check the information to verify or refute it.

Wait, what? What exactly is Checkdesk and how does it work? Find out through this video:

 

Meedan has partnered with several media outlets across regions to implement this idea. Some of the media outlets that adopted this project into their news production are Global Voices, Mada Masr, Bellingcat and several others. Bellingcat uses open source and social media to investigate a diverse range of topics, and this is an example of how they successfully used Checkdesk to get some facts right, as explained by the founder Eliot Higgins:

 

Social media and user generated content can jeopardize the quality and accuracy of  journalism if there are no watchdogs to make sure what’s being reported and circulated is true. Since it is hard to control what’s being published on social media platforms, it is at least journalists’ responsibility to make sure what they choose to include and use in their coverage has been verified.