#Verificado2018: An update from Mexico’s collaborative election reporting initiative

Verificado2018 is a collaborative election reporting initiative led by Animal Politico, AJ+ Espanol and Pop-Up Newsroom.

Supported by the Facebook Journalism Project and Google News Initiative.

Cross-post from Pop-Up Newsroom. Meedan and Dig Deeper founded Pop-Up Newsroom as an innovation methodology for editorial and technological collaboration between newsrooms. To date, we have led initiatives in the UK and US, and in March 2018 launched Verificado 2018 with partners in Mexico.

In mid-March 2018, a group of 100 journalists from around Mexico gathered in Mexico City to design and launch Verificado 2018 — a collaborative election reporting initiative that seeks to debunk viral misinformation, fact check politicians’ claims, and help Mexican audiences sort fact from fiction online. As you can see from the VerificadoMX and AJ+ Espanol social media channels, it has been a busy seven weeks of monitoring, verifying, debunking and checking — almost all of it in Spanish :) Here are some highlights from the past seven weeks!

Network and Audience

After launching with 60 media, civil society and academic partners, the network has grown to over 80 orgs from 28 of 31(+1) states — likely the largest collaborative reporting initiative ever to take place in Mexico. Given that there are over 10,000 candidates running for local and national office across Mexico, ensuring we have a network present across the country was a key goal of the project. These partners play two primary roles:

  1. Finding and verifying content relevant to their audiences, using Meedan’s open source collaborative verification platform Check (Meedan is a cofounder of Pop-Up Newsroom).
  2. Republishing and sharing content (debunks, fact checks etc) produced by the central Verificado editorial desk, to ensure reliable information is easily available to a broad audience.
Since launching on March 12, we’ve had a great reaction from audiences, and in only 50 days, Verificado has racked up an organic following on Twitter of 137,000, with 118,000 people liking our Facebook page.

We’ve also engaged this audience as a potential source of questions, links and content, through the hashtag #QuieroQueVerifiquen (#IWantYouToVerify), our Facebook page, and WhatsApp.

Editorial Highlights

DEBUNKED: NYT Espanol publishes poll putting Meade #1:

In March, soon after launching, we spotted an image being shared widely on Facebook that claimed to show a New York Times poll, giving a substantial lead to PRI candidate Jose Antonio Meade. We consulted the NYT en Espanol Editorial Director Elías López, who confirmed that the Times had neither conducted nor published any such poll, publishing a rebuttal on Twitter.

DEBUNKED: Venezuela’s Maduras behind Lopez Obrador (AMLO) campaign

Also in March, we found a video claiming “SCANDAL!”: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirms on state TV that he’s behind the Lopez Obrador campaign. Published by La Maldita Hora, the video had been shared 14,000 times, racking up 630,000 views. Working with Venezuelan digital media group Efecto Cocuyo, we determined that the clip referenced in the video had been manipulated, through analyzing the content, logos and graphics, and corroborating sources.The producer for the viral video clip contacted Verificado to state his agreement with the analysis and thanking us for the work, and removed the debunked content from their platforms.

ANALYSIS: Trending Bots:

AJ+ shared an interview with researcher Alberto Escorcia, who analyzed 17 election-related hashtags over a period of a week and found that 14 of the 17 were driven by bot activity.

FACT CHECKING: Presidential debates kick off with contesting claims around kidnappings and security

The day after the first Presidential debate, Twitter had a new trending topic: #MentirasDeAnaya (#Anaya’sLies). In fact-checking the debate, Verificado questioned Anaya’s claim that under Lopez Obrador’s stewardship, kidnappings in Mexico City had increased 88%. Anaya’s team, in response, provided their methodology and data for their claim. Subsequently, Verificado published a thorough analysis of the different methodologies, finding that the base for Anaya’s claim was weak and misleading. The topic sparked a series of articles debating how to measure security in Mexico, and the weaknesses of different indicators and methodologies.

DEBUNKED: Star actor calls on public to turn against “communist” AMLO

It’s common to find fake quotes attributed to famous figures in support of, or against a given candidate, and in April Mexican film legend Gael Garcia Bernal tweeted @VerificadoMX to debunk a viral meme that attributed to him a false statement.

Educational Content

In addition to our news publishing and debunks, an important goal of the project is to help audiences conduct basic checks themselves, and develop a better understanding of electoral processes. AJ+ Espanol have published a series of videos, which have been among the most popular content created by Verificado:

How to do a quick Reverse Image Search from your phone (1M views on Facebook):

What is Verificado, and why is it needed for the Mexican elections (277k views on Facebook, 100k views on Twitter):

Verificado is off to a flying start, but with two months of campaigning left until election day on July 1, there’s much work to do and much more to come. If you’re interested in participating in the initiative, or in publishing about our work, please contact tom@popup.news.

To stay up to date with the latest from Verificado, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.