MADRID — For the fourth year in a row, I’ve gathered with fact-checkers from around the world to discuss best practices and highest principles, with lots of time for socializing. We come together to confab, commiserate and encourage as we all go about our work of holding the powerful accountable and giving our readers the facts on what’s true and what’s not.
I saw two major themes at this year’s conference: technology and trust.
For technology, Bill Adair of Duke Reporters’ Lab showed us the latest on automation and Share the Facts, coding that allows fact-checks to be shared and highlighted in search findings. Meanwhile, the UK fact-checkers at Full Fact showed us how they’re using automated processes to identify and flag false statements and then present corrective information simultaneously. Both efforts are exciting and point to new ways of getting accurate, vetted information in front of people on the Internet.
Interestingly, basic trust struck me as the trickier issue. Several speakers mentioned the high levels of partisanship among the general public, a.k.a. our audience. That partisanship sometimes makes people hostile to fact-checking or evidence-based findings that contradict their world view. As one academic put it, partisanship is a social identity, not a cognitive tool. That means people can perceive fact-checking as threatening (or bolstering) to their own sense of identity, instead of simply seeing fact-checks as information that helps them make decisions. Reaching out to audiences that are suspicious of fact-checking remains one of our most important tasks, and we’re still figuring out the best ways to understand and address their concerns about our processes and work.
The International Fact-checking Network, which grew out of the first year’s conference, hosted this event and announced new grants to increase fact-checking’s reach around the world. The next few years will be exciting, and I’m already looking forward to Global Fact 5 in 2018.