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Home » 5 takeaways from last week’s International Fact-Checking Day

5 takeaways from last week’s International Fact-Checking Day

Each year, the International Fact-Checking Network celebrates International Fact-Checking Day on April 2 – symbolically positioned just after April Fools’ Day. It’s a time to celebrate facts and elevate the work of fact-checkers globally. Here are some of the best insights from panels and commentary that were a part of the event. Read more.

1. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have fact-checkers increasingly worried.

“The way ChatGPT generates text suggests that it is like a large database, when in fact it is a language system whose abilities rely on predicting very accurately the next word in a sentence to compose meaningful texts,” writes Borja Lozano and Irene Laraz of Newtral, the Spanish fact-checking and media publication commissioned to write a commentary for International Fact-Checking Day.

Because ChatGPT’s algorithm is heavily focused on predicting the most-likely next word in the sentence – not actually evaluating information for facts – it often spits out nonsense with a veneer of authority. This state of affairs is obviously concerning to fact-checkers globally. The development of advanced text-generating artificial intelligence has converged with the simultaneous arrivals of AI-powered image and voice generation.

2. Journalism hasn’t always been the same everywhere.

In South Korea, objectivity in journalism wasn’t always a given. As EunRyung Chong of SNU FactCheck Center wrote in her International Fact-Checking Day op-ed, journalists in Korea weren’t always strictly in pursuit of “just the facts.” Several decades ago, it was expected that reporters use their position to fight colonial rule under Japan.

“Where American journalists established the objective principle of ‘just the facts,’ the mission of Korean journalists was to save their compatriots and expose the injustices of colonial rule. A good journalist, at the time, had to be a patriot rather than an objective, fact-based professional,” Chong wrote.

3. Lawsuits against fact-checkers are widespread – and extraordinarily expensive.

“You’re talking many hundreds of thousands of dollars, at the very least,” said Dr. Anne Kruger, the editor-in-chief of Australia-based RMIT FactLab. “It’s a case where the costs are rarely ever fully recovered in litigation, or in settlement as well.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against fact-checkers as a result of their participation in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program, with notable plaintiffs including John Stossel and Candace Owens.

“I can say that our own institution is currently a defendant in a fact-checking based defamation claim,” Kruger said. “I can’t discuss it too much because it’s current litigation, but the costs and resourcing, including time, effort and distraction from doing the actual job. All of this investment is required to defend it. It takes a high toll and it’s also the kind of thing which just undermines genuine fact-checking endeavors.”

4. In West Africa – and around the world – ‘fake news’ and cybercrime laws are being used to jail journalists.

“In the wee hours of Dec. 20, 2019, armed security guards stormed the quiet residence of the Beninois journalist Ignace Sossou. Without an arrest warrant, they dragged the journalist from his wife’s and 5-year-old daughter’s side to the Central Office for the Repression of Cybercrime. He was detained for four days,” wrote Kwame Krobea Asante of FactCheck Ghana.

Sossou’s detention was met with protest from international journalism communities, nongovernmental organizations and governments, including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the U.N. Working Group for Arbitrary Detention.

“Many countries in the (West African) subregion have either passed a law that specifically targets fake news or are in the process of adopting one. However, these fake news laws are increasingly being appropriated against journalists critical of West African governments,” Asante wrote.

The Beninois law used to arrest Sossou, the “digital code” for harassment – which was purportedly intended to deal with online harassment and fake news – in its first two years was used as justification to arrest more than 17 journalists and dissidents in the country. Similar laws have been adopted in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Niger.

5. The growing issue of false information won’t be easy to legislate

“While misinformation refers to false information being shared unintentionally, without the user’s knowledge of the content being false or misleading, disinformation refers to publishing false information with the intent to deceive. mislead or even cause harm,” wrote Stephanie Jean Tsang of Hong Kong Baptist University. “Given that ordinary readers and fact-checking initiatives can seldom correctly identify the author’s or publisher’s intention from the information alone, finding misinformation solutions is a difficult job.”

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