Agents of disinformation use anonymous online spaces to seed rumors and fabricated content, hoping to eventually reach professional news outlets. How can journalists protect themselves from being manipulated?

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The ‘Trumpet of Amplification’

By Claire Wardle

Despite endless headlines, reports and conferences on the topic of information disorder, the global news industry remains woefully unprepared to tackle the increasingly effective and dangerous tactics deployed by those intent on disrupting the public sphere. Journalists often write about the phenomenon at arm’s length, rarely considering how the current environment requires newsrooms to integrate new skills and adapt their routines, standards and ethics in order to prevent deliberate falsehoods and coordinated conspiracy from creeping into the mainstream.

From our work at First Draft over the past few years, our most important takeaway is understanding that many agents of disinformation see coverage by established news outlets as the end-goal. Their tactics center around polluting the information ecosystem by seeding misleading or fabricated content, hoping to catch out journalists who now regularly turn to online sources to inform their newsgathering. Having their deliberate hoax or manufactured rumor featured and amplified by an influential news organization is considered a serious win, but so is finding their work the focus of a debunk. It all amounts to coverage. As Ryan Broderick reported in the aftermath of the ‘MacronLeaks’ data dump on the eve of the French election in May 2017, users on 4chan celebrated when mainstream news outlets began fact-checking the controversy surrounding Macron’s financial affairs, boasting that the debunks were a “form of engagement”. Over the past year we have seen these tactics play out in various regional contexts around the world. …


Days of training, lots of sticky notes and karaoke were some of the building blocks of the Brazilian election project

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Comprovadores at the bootcamp in May. Photo: Juliana Farinha

By Sérgio Lüdtke (Versão em português brasileiro)

Competition can be a great motivator, but a shared purpose for all is better, which is what I discovered after 12 weeks of working collaboratively on Comprova. During this period, journalists from 24 competing media companies worked together to investigate the veracity of dubious claims and content that circulated on social networks during the Brazilian presidential campaign of 2018.

The fluidity of collaborative work depends on engagement of the organizations taking part and the clarity of the project’s goals. …


A coalition of 24 media outlets verified and debunked 147 rumors circulating online during the presidential elections in October

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By Sérgio Lüdtke, (Versão em português brasileiro)

Misinformation in the 2018 Brazilian presidential campaign moved in waves and like the tides obeyed the gravitational force of the public agenda. For 12 weeks, I sailed in a sea of ​​misinformation trying to trap rumors and lies that emerged on the web with astonishing speed and strength.

In three months, a team of two editors and I, along with reporters from 24 newsrooms, participated in Comprova, a coalition of media outlets that verified and debunked rumors and lies circulating during the Brazilian presidential campaign. …


The collaborative journalism project was the first to have special access to one of Brazil’s most popular apps

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Once users clicked on the “I have a question” link from the website, they were taken to this page to ask their question. Users could also click on the “Keep me informed” link and be sent messages with project updates.

By Aimee Rinehart, (Versão em português brasileiro)

Our collaborative verification project, Comprova, brought together 24 newsrooms in Brazil to debunk mis- and disinformation around the national elections that took place in October 2018. First Draft wanted to facilitate a project in Brazil because it’s the largest democracy in the Global South and is becoming an increasingly polarized country. We also wanted to take a closer look at how mis- and disinformation is exchanged on the closed messaging application WhatsApp. Brazil has had a massive adoption of WhatsApp with an estimated 120 million people on the platform.

API sounds fancy but what did it actually mean for Comprova? For the first time, WhatsApp gave a journalism non-profit the ability to receive questions from the public on an intermediary website, Zendesk. Had we just used WhatsApp for Business, we would have been tethered to one phone to try and respond to the almost 70,000 questions the project received. Zendesk was integrated into our business account and allowed multiple journalists and student journalists to review “tickets,” or questions from the public. For most of the project, four journalists monitored questions. For the last month of the election, there were 10 people assigned to sort and sift tickets. Through this process, the team began to see patterns of mis- and disinformation and sent these on to editors for consideration to debunk. The team also replied to the person who sent the original message with a simple note or a link to the published article on the topic. …


The benefits for collaborative verification projects demonstrate that funders should be supporting newsrooms and fact-checkers to work together on a long-term basis

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By Claire Wardle (Versão em português brasileiro)

It’s not often that when you hear seasoned journalists admit something has rekindled their love for the craft. This year has been very difficult for journalists globally, and most of what we hear relates to journalists under physical, verbal and online attacks from politicians and trolls.


Throughout the 12-week collaborative verification project, 24 partners worked together to inform voters about inaccurate and misleading content circulating online

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By Aimee Rinehart (Versão em português brasileiro)

Comprova, our largest collaborative journalism project to date, wrapped after the second round of voting in Brazil on October 28. The project brought together journalists from 24 newsrooms, who worked together virtually, using a shared CMS and an incredibly busy WhatsApp group, to find, verify and collaboratively report on 149 examples of misinformation over the ten weeks leading up the second runoff for the Presidential election.


Our online verification trainings are designed for newsrooms, journalism classrooms and the public

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First journalism collaborative dedicated to tackling misinformation to use the WhatsApp Business API for managing communications with audiences

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By Claire Wardle and Aimee Rinehart

São Paulo, August 6 — First Draft, a project of Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center is thrilled to announce the first day of publishing for Comprova, a new collaborative journalism project that brings together 24 newsrooms in Brazil to verify misinformation online. Project partners will work together to authenticate information related to elections in Brazil, which take place on October 7 and 28 this year.

Over the past six months, First Draft has been working closely with Abraji, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists, to provide training and project design support. Abraji is leading Comprova in Brazil, and the impact of the collaboration will be studied by a team of researchers at the John F. …

About

First Draft

Non-profit tackling misinformation globally. Check out our website: firstdraftnews.org

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