Fact Checking the French Election with CrossCheck, A Collaborative Reporting Initiative

A few weeks from now, 43 million registered voters will have the chance to cast their ballots as France votes to elect a new President.

To coincide with the election, the Google News Lab and First Draft, a coalition set up to support truth and verification in media, have launched a new initiative: CrossCheck. The project will help people make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, in their search results and on news websites. It does this by bringing together expertise from media and technology industries to ensure hoaxes, rumours and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported.

Seventeen French organisations, including regional, national and international newsrooms are participating with more expected to join: AFP (Agence France-Presse), BuzzFeed News, France Médias Monde (via les Observateurs de France 24), France Télévisions, Global Voices, Libération, La Provence, Les Echos, La Voix du Nord, Le Monde (Les Décodeurs), Nice-Matin, Ouest-France, Rue89 Bordeaux, Rue89Lyon, Rue89 Strasbourg, Storyful and StreetPress.We welcome more to join before the February 10th deadline. (Newsrooms and students who are interested in taking part in CrossCheck should email crosscheck@firstdraftnews.com for more information.)

How does CrossCheck work?

With the French presidential election as its primary focus, journalists from organisations across France will work together to find and verify content circulating online: photographs, videos, memes, comments from threads, and articles on news sites.

Using a feed curated by Google Trends data, Facebook’s CrowdTangle and other technology partners to identify content and storylines that are spiking, participating newsrooms will pool their experience, resources and regional knowledge to speed and strengthen the verification process. Editors will summarise and add context to each claim, creating a live feed of shareable report cards on the CrossCheck site. Partners will ultimately make use of these reports in their own articles, programmes and social media output, helping accurate reports reach more citizens.

In addition, students and volunteers from CFJ and Science Po Journalism School in Paris will receive training to use a combination of newsroom technologies and advanced search techniques to assist in the efforts, overseen by AFP (Agence France-Presse). The public will also be encouraged to participate by submitting questions and links to disputed sites and social content for CrossCheck to investigate. These questions will all be listed and answered on a dedicated CrossCheck website.

The project benefits from the collective learnings and experience gained by First Draft and Google News Lab through its partnership in Electionland, a collaborative reporting initiative that provided visibility into what was happening at polling places across America on Election Day. It also builds on the growing work around verification already taking place in France, including Le Monde’s Decodex project (which is supported by Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund).

As Jenni Sargent, Managing Director of First Draft, notes, “We were already aware of the brilliant verification work many of our French partners are doing. For a challenge as great as this, strength really comes in numbers and by working together and opening the project up to the public for their questions and assistance I’m confident we will be able help to stem the flow of misinformation at this crucial time for France.

Collaborating reporting initiatives — that bring together new uses of technology, access to data, and journalistic expertise — have the power to solve some of the most difficult reporting challenges. Verifying what is true and what is not online has increasingly become difficult for journalists, and elections are critical moments to get it right. We’re proud of this partnership’s potential to play a role in addressing this challenge and we hope it can be used as a model for other collaborative journalism efforts going forward.