International Fact-Checking Day is observed on April 2, and is all about setting the record straight and protecting the general public from misinformation or ‘fake news.’ And while the name may appear to be self-explanatory, fact-checkers help to protect the reputation of a publication through the verification of facts and prevention of misinformation or journalistic fraud. Happily, this can help reduce lawsuits and cases of defamation, which errors in reportage may lead to; hence it’s evident that the fact-checker plays quite a key role here too. In a world where news comes from all kinds of social media sources (ranging from Twitter to Reddit to Instagram), information and media can very easily be manipulated to misguide or sway public opinions. In some ways then, fact-checkers are the superheroes of today, doing us all a public service!
History of International Fact-Checking Day
The first official observation of International Fact-Checking Day was on April 2, 2017. However, the concept of having such a day was first conceived in 2014 at a conference for journalists and professional fact-checkers at the London School of Economics. The discussion was born out of a recognition of the danger that political misformation posed, particularly on social media sites; which are consumed by the masses daily. In 2016, during the U.S. elections, fake news wreaked havoc and brought this issue into the spotlight again, which is why the observance was officially created in 2016, though celebrated a year later.
It is officially promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network (I.F.C.N.), which partners with various media organizations worldwide. The significance of the date, April 2, is also noteworthy because it falls on the day after April Fools’ Day — cleverly pointing to the binary of ‘fool versus fact’. On this day many different kinds of media organizations rally around and add to the growing pool of resources that can equip people to check facts, and provide tips and lessons to students and the public on ways to identify and stop the spread of misinformation or fake news.
Factually speaking, fact-checking as a thing belongs to the recent past and has been in existence for less than 100 years. It has its roots in the era of American ‘yellow journalism’ — where truth took the backseat to sensationalism when it came to headlines; all for the sake of profit. Initially dominated by women and considered a feminine job, fact-checking began to gain legitimacy as a career with the establishment of “TIME” magazine in the 1920s. With the explosion of fake news on social media sites now, it has doubled in importance.
International Fact-Checking Day timeline
Ralph Pulitzer and Joseph White begin the bureau to catch out repeat offenders who make errors.
Fact-checking becomes a legitimate career in many newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses.
Following a complaint about sex segregation, “TIME” magazine paves the way for men to become fact-checkers too — and they become the first to hire four men.
Fact-checking websites like Snope and Smoking Gun emerge, offering a chance to check political facts.
International Fact-Checking Day FAQs
What’s an interesting fact?
About 69% of the world’s fresh water is locked up in glaciers and ice sheets.
What’s a random fact?
The Olympics used to also include competitive art as a category.
What is one of the weirdest facts?
Being buried at sea now has a new meaning thanks to a company, “Eternal Reefs,” which transforms cremated remains into sustainable ocean reefs.
How to Observe International Fact-Checking Day
Run fact-check on your own
On the next piece of news you come across on your social media platform of choice, try using the methods prescribed by Google to verify the information stated. Welcome to your first step on the path to awareness!
Support fact-checking organizations
There are many organizations out there on the internet which provide resources for public fact-checking. Some of these include FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com. Getting their names out there and spreading awareness would go a long way in supporting their endeavor.
Read up on fact-checking
These reads can be quite fact-sinating (we had to), so pick up a copy of works like “The Lifespan of a Fact,” by Jim Fingal and John D’Agata, or “The Fact Checker’s Bible,” by Sarah Harrison Smith.
5 Facts About Google And Fact-Checking
Google images for context
Run an image search by right-clicking on any image
Compare with other sources
Checking publications that you trust and are reputable is a good way to verify the information.
Use a fact-checking tool
Google has a new tool called Fact Check Explorer, which aids the process.
Zoom in to places
If a picture looks suspicious, there are resources like Google Earth, which can also give real evidence to compare with.
Check under the ‘news’ category
Reliable sources can often be found in this category on search engines like Google.
Why International Fact-Checking Day is Important
To stop the spread of misinformation
It is important to be aware of how influential what one reads in the news can be. Fact-checking ensures that we all take responsibility for what we consume and choose to believe, to root out corruption and potentially harmful propaganda.
To encourage public-professional collaboration
Fact-checking professionals need the help and collaboration of the public because the web is so wide and there are just so many ways that information is disseminated these days. The more critical and skeptical individuals become of the information they consume, the better it would be to stem the spread of corrupted information.
To further engagement with the news
Raise your hand if you have stopped buying the newspaper or catching the evening news on T.V. Whatever your reasons might be (ranging from saving the environment to avoiding propaganda), exposure to news in some form over social media is inevitable. So this day brings the importance of engaging with news in the correct way to the forefront.
International Fact-Checking Day dates