Luca Belli (17/12/2021). Fact-checking. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio. https://platformglossary.info/fact-checking/.
Author: Luca Belli
Fact-checking has gained prominence as a concept, in light of the global proportions gained by the divulgation of fabricated and misleading content, frequently categorized as ‘fake news’ or misinformation/disinformation.
The term ‘fact-checking’ however can refer to two different types of activities depending on whether it is performed as parts of editorial responsibility, before the publication of specific content or, as verification of the veracity of suspicious sensationalist content – that may be entirely fabricated in bad faith with the aim of misleading the public opinion – and that is already circulating.
In journalism, fact-checkers traditionally proofread and verify factual claims ex-ante, to make sure that articles drafted by reporters correctly represent the facts, thus evaluating the solidity of the reporting, before publication, to avoid responsibility for false claims.
Ex-post fact-checking seeks to verify claims and content, thus avoiding that public opinion is deceived while making public figures – typically politicians – accountable for the truthfulness of their statements. As such, fact-checkers in this line of work seek primary and reputable sources that can confirm or negate claims made to the public. (Mantzarlis, 2018:82)1
Considering the proven vulnerability and permeability to misinformation and disinformation of social networking platforms, this latter fact-checking activity has gained prominence and become particularly relevant to debunk so-called “fake news”, over the past years.
As reported by UNESCO (Mantzarlis, 2018:84)2, fact-checking is typically composed of three phases:
- Finding fact-checkable claims by scouring through legislative records, media outlets and social media. This process includes determining which major public claims (a) can be fact-checked and (b) ought to be fact-checked.
- Finding the facts by looking for the best available evidence regarding the claim at hand.
- Correcting the record by evaluating the claim in light of the evidence, usually on a scale of truthfulness.