By Laura Zommer – Feb 23, 2021
It does not matter if we are in Argentina, Brazil, the United States, the Philippines, India, South Africa, Turkey, Spain or the United Kingdom. Checkers around the world are often criticized the same way. The questions that are repeated in different languages - with better and worse manners and with more or less irony – are essentially two: Is what they do any use (if the phenomenon of disinformation seems worse every day)? Y Are they really fair?
Impact and independence – or autonomy – appear again and again when talking about growth and expansion of fact checking in the worldBut there is little research on it, especially outside the United States and certain countries in Europe.
In Checked, the first organization dedicated to verifying the public discourse of Argentina, Latin America and a country in the south of the world, we ask ourselves these questions since we began our work in 2010. We had evidence and casuistry everywhere that made us be optimistic and persist in our task. But, as it does not seem appropriate to us to demand of others something other than what we demand of ourselves, we decided to invest in having independent researchers answer those questions with data and evidence.
When two years ago we commissioned doctors Ernesto Calvo (University of Maryland) and Natalia Aruguete (University of Quilmes) to measure the impact and role of Chequeado during the 2019 presidential election campaign With the methodology that they consider most appropriate, we jump into the pool and take a risk. They would publish the results of their work, no matter what (and, before, they had not been particularly adept at checking).
“Why are we doing this, what happens if it hurts?” Asked some members of the Checked. “What if, although we think we are balanced and treat everyone with the same standard, the data shows us that we are not?” For me, the answer was one: “If it hurts us, we will change. Better to know it and not waste our time and the money of many ”. It did us good. Today we not only say that the fact checking it works but we test it (and we have data to show and convince even the most incredulous).
According to the results of the research that we present summarized today and that, we hope, will be published in a more extensive paper at some time, people do not necessarily change their minds, but change their behavior when Checked points out that something is false. Basically, our intervention reduces the incentive to share disinformation or non-evidence content.
And not only that. Furthermore, according to the conclusions of Calvo and Aruguete, this happened in the 2019 campaign in a similar way on both sides of the vernacular rift. In other words, both supporters of the Frente de Todos and Juntos por el Cambio reacted similarly to the publications of Checked. We were a legitimate source for the two main parties in the last electoral dispute in Argentina.
The findings not only include good news for checkers, but also provide several points with opportunities for improvement if we want to increase our impact. For example, they show that “intermediate ratings” (such as misleading) tend to generate the same type of reactions as “false”, that people prefer to share content from Checked rated “True” rather than one labeled “False” and that every time we point out to someone that something is not as they thought, their assessment of our brand or organization is reduced.
The research involved a national and representative survey of 2,040 people that included three modules and five experiments, the analysis of the activity on Twitter around the publications of Checked and the topics of the check-ups between September and December 2019, and the analysis of consumption and viralization of everything published on the social networks of Checked between June and December 2019. We believe that making the results public is a contribution towards the 2021 legislative campaign.
Checked in Argentina. Fact checking and the spread of fake news on social networks.