Ukraine's Effort to Stop Fake Content Provides Important Model
'Fact Check' should be standard on many websites.
If you are in the news, traditional or social news, you are certain to find yourself saying," Why can't they get it right? The fact is both traditional media and social media tend to get things wrong. Inaccurate reporting, rumors and malicious misinformation are not new. What's new is the speed with which false reports can get traction; the number of people (include nasties) who have the power to broadcast; and the intense competition among the media, which has reduced editorial caution and diligence.
Stopfake.org was launched in March in Ukraine to address the incredible number of malicious lies, false reports, rumors and misinformation being used as a result of the conflict. In a struggle such as this, the Internet is a new frontline used by all combatants in their effort to mold public opinion. The StopFake website was brought to my attention by a Nieman Labs report, which shows that the site is getting a lot of views (1.5m unique a month). It was started by a group of citizens, and was funded by crowdsourcing.
The StopFake website is worth a close look. It does not hesitate to call lies lies, and fake fake. It also includes commentary about media coverage and who is winning the propaganda war. This may not be such a good idea if the intention is to be credible through unbiased observation.
I have long advocated that those heavily discussed in the news or social media have a "Fact Check" section on their websites. I've blogged about this several times in the past here on Crisis Comm. I've seen it work to great effect. The biggest impact is not necessarily correcting the record and establishing yourself as the most credible source of information as valuable as that is. The biggest impact is sending a message to your critics, or the news editors, or social media posters that you are watching and that you will catch and correct their errors. If credibility is important to them (it still is to most) they will be more careful in the future what they report, tweet, retweet or comment knowing that you are monitoring and not afraid to call them out if a report or content is seriously off-base.
I seriously doubt if StopFake is going to put an end to the propaganda wars and the battle for the hearts and minds of the public in Ukraine. But it seems certain to help people evaluate more carefully the reports they are seeing. Sure, we believe what we want to believe. But most still want their picture of reality to be somehow based on reality. And a site like this can help a lot.