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ARTICLE: Both audience and journalists unsure of fact checkers

Magnified Port by Robert Zetzsche, licence CC BY-NC 2.0

Both journalists and lay social media users have mixed opinions on fact checking and information verification services, write Petter Bae Brandtzaeg and Asbjørn Følstad, both of the Norwegian research company SINTEF, with María Ángeles Chaparro Domínguez, of Universidad Internacional de La Rioja, Spain.

The authors conducted group interviews with 18 Norwegian journalism students and individual interviews with 14 working journalists. Social media users’ opinions were studied by analysing 595 social media posts regarding fact checking services.

Both journalists and social media users expressed mixed views toward the services. Journalists’ views, however, were more nuanced: while they recognized the services’ potential use, they were reluctant to fully rely on the unsupervised work of non-journalists. The social media posts were more polarized. While others celebrated the fact checkers as definitive proof of their own views, others decried them as politically biased or even fraudulent.

The authors conclude their article with three recommendations for making fact checkers and verification services more useful.

  • Fact checkers should acknowledge their limitations and highlight their proof rather than underscore their conclusions’ veracity
  • Fact checkers should be transparent about the cases they choose and the verification process they use
  • Fact checkers should try collaborating with the “lay public”

The article “How Journalists and Social Media Users Perceive Online Fact-Checking and Verification Services” was published by the journal Journalism Practice. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free) or on Academia.edu (open access). Further information of the study is available on the project’s website.

Picture: Magnified Port by Robert Zetzsche, licence CC BY-NC 2.0.

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