In the post-truth world, fact-checkers of the world unite (in Cape Town)
In a world menaced by fake news and misinformation, this gathering of mythbusters has become vital
In a world where the term “fake news” is thrown around with abandon and misinformation spreads faster than you can delete a WhatsApp message, there is a growing group who want to make sure you can separate fact from fiction.
In June, more than 200 of these mythbusters – journalists, academics and representatives of corporations such as Google, Facebook and YouTube – will be in Cape Town for the sixth global fact-checking summit.
The gathering, the first of its kind to be held in Africa, is hosted by the International Fact-Checking Network run by the Poynter Institute in the US, and is supported by Africa Check. It will cover the impact and reach of fact checking, including developments in automation.
Africa Check deputy director Noko Makgato said fact checking had evolved rapidly from being one part of a journalist’s job to requiring organisations dedicated to finding and assessing the validity of an endless stream of sources, most of which are distributed on social media.
“There is a science to fact-checking, and the practice of fact-checking is based on how humans receive information,” he said.
“Little [study] has been done focusing on fact checking in Africa, or in an African country.”
The number of fact-checking organisations worldwide has increased to about 160, according to Duke Reporters Lab. This is a significant jump from the 44 the lab noted when it started in 2014.
The growth is attributed to the increased volume and dissemination of fake information and its real-world impacts.
The decision to hold the summit in SA was thanks to Africa Check’s determination to highlight and expand fact checking on the continent, said Noko.
“We aim to raise the profile of fact checking, mainly in the media space, and on the African continent with African myth busters,” he said.
Baybars Örsek, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, said a recent trend had been established media outlets entering the fact-checking field.
“Fact checking is growing, and Global Fact 6 in Cape Town will be another testament to this motto,” he said.