First step in understanding the above-mentioned question will be revisiting the concepts. Fact-checking simply put is the process of verifying information, to promote the veracity and accurateness of reporting and statements. The process of fact-checking can be done either before or after a text or content is published or disseminated. Reuter Institute defines Disinformation as false information that is created and spread, deliberately or otherwise, to harm people, institutions and interests, represents a range of serious issues that can be part of distortions of electoral processes, incitements to violence, and can fuel dangerous conspiracy theories. The coronavirus pandemic has further underlined how disinformation can also represent a risk to personal and public health. Fake news according to eSafety Commission is simply described as fictional news stories that are made up to support certain agendas. It can also be referred to as false information that has been created in a way that makes it look like a trustworthy report.
The disinformation challenge.
Information has real-life consequences which can be considered a lifesaver when it’s true. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true as false information can cause great harm. Like a virus, false information can spread, causing what’s known as an infodemic. The negative effects of disinformation are more far-reaching than the work fact-checkers are doing. Despite the growth of number of fact-checkers and fact-checking organizations, they are overwhelmed, and their efforts are dwarfed by the volume of disinformation spreading across the internet, television channels, radio more quickly and effectively than ever before. Disinformation campaigns on social media can create discord within countries, impact elections or influence the worlds response and view on the pandemic (example of the role that Russia played in the spread of disinformation about the COVID-19 virus during the wee hours of the pandemic).
Fact-Checking a Golden Strike?
Fact-checking as a profession originated from the United States and have spread globally. Whether they work inside or outside media organs, fact-checkers promote good journalistic practices, by explaining how information verification works, they also sensitize their audience to the challenges journalists face in the discharge of their duties. Fact-checking is no doubt gradually being recognized as a global phenomenon owing to the concerns about misleading information circulated on social media but does is the effort of fact-checkers enough to stamp out disinformation? Social scientists argue that it does only to an extent because the direct impact of corrections is often very limited, especially for the types of groups most exposed to disinformation (more in the article: Fact-checking doesn’t work (the way you think it does). Publishing fact-checked information has been shown generally to have a positive effect in terms of correcting inaccurate information. However, that effect is smaller in polarized contexts like during election campaigns and crises as well as among certain audiences with deeply held beliefs.
It is also important to ascertain that if people accept incorrect information, then it may simply be a failure on their part to make the effort to realign their views with inconvenient truths. Whatever the cause, it seems clear that fact-checking in the strictest sense cannot on its own alter deeply-held beliefs that are based on inaccurate information. One should therefore not expect fact-checking by itself to bring polarized audiences together or force partisan voters to compromise.
According to the Brookings Institution, a fact-check’s effectiveness also depends on the characteristics of the person, who encounters it. While on average everyone will be slightly better informed after encountering a fact check, if a person is unsure about their belief, they are more likely to walk away from a verified piece with better information.
Over the last decade, researchers have tested how well fact-checking works when it comes to changing minds and behaviors. They’ve discovered that fact-checking does make us better informed, but whether or not we change our behavior based on that information is a different story.
The proliferation of online disinformation and propaganda has meant an uphill battle for fact-checkers worldwide, as they have to sift through and verify vast quantities of information during complex or viral situations. Faced with this asymmetry, fact-checking organizations have started to build their AI-driven tools to help automate and accelerate their work. It’s far from offering a long-lasting solution, but fact-checkers hope these new tools will at least keep the gap between them and their adversaries from widening too fast, especially now that when social media companies are scaling back their moderation operations.
The race between fact-checkers and those they are verifying is an uneven one. Fact-checkers are often part of small organizations, relying on public funding or grants compared to the self-reliant, wealthy parties producing disinformation. With the odds stacked against them, fact-checkers affirm they need to find innovative ways to scale up without major investment. Fact-checkers and researchers have consistently raised the urgency of the search for tools to scale up and speed up their work, as generative AI increases the volume of disinformation online by automating the process of producing falsehoods. Due to the volume of misinformation already online, people who use them may also inadvertently spread falsehoods. As the problem of automated misinformation grows, the resources available to tackle it are scarce.
In an advanced digital era where communication and access to information are greatly dependent on technology, information consumers – us - must know how to spot disinformation.
Individuals cannot be expected to verify everything they read what is available to everyone is making sure that you check the ecosystem of the message by asking self-probing questions like who sent the message, what’s the senders intentions, when was the message written etc before sharing, liking, or commenting on a news item or publication on any social media site .
We urge you to get into a habit of verifying information maybe from trusted sources on the subject matter or sometimes even use your google search engines, given the cognitive biases that make us receptive to fake news. When people articulate an opinion based on something they claim is real or is a fact, it would be a good idea for you to check how real it is.
Also, try to question the reliability of facts regardless of who provided them in good faith.
Given the diversity of resources, reports, sites, and systems available for us to verify information, it’s also important to spend enough time weighing one information source against another and develop sufficient insight that will assist you in preventing the spread of fake news in the future.