Newsrooms, universities team up to fact-check 2019 elections

MANILA, Philippines – Eleven news organizations and 3 universities are teaming up to fact-check claims related to the May 13, 2019 midterm elections.

The Tsek.ph collaborative fact-checking project was launched at the University of the Philippines (UP) on Monday, February 11, the eve of the 2019 campaign period.

The project aims to combat false news and other forms of disinformation in the lead‐up to the May 2019 polls. Among those that will be fact-checked are statements and campaign promises of candidates, personalities, government agencies, and other entities, as well as election‐related posts on social media, blogs, and other online platforms.

Users can submit claims for verification and know more about the project by visiting the website, www.tsek.ph.

Guided by the Code of Principles of the International Fact‐checking Network, the Tsek.ph project will verify claims, then rate them accordingly, using the following: Accurate, False, Misleading, No Basis, or Needs Context.

Fact-checking is "essential and important," said UP Vice President for Public Affairs Dr Elena Pernia on Monday, "especially at this time when we are at the cusp of our national elections."

"For citizens, it is especially important because it can aid in the decisions about who to vote for," Pernia added.

The project is spearheaded by the UP College of Mass Communication's Journalism Department, the UP College of Engineering's Department of Computer Science, and the UP College of Law.

"We're hoping to provide a one-stop shop for the public to have a way of finding out what the truth is, to verify the information that has been given out during the campaigns and election programs," said Dr Rachel Khan, chairperson of the UP Journalism Department.

"We're hoping also to show that media can be trusted, that as a partnership, we can work together and bring out information that is true, credible, and reliable for the public," Khan added.

MEDIA, ACADEME. UP President Danilo Concepcion (7th from left) joins representatives of newsgroups and universities after the signing of the MOU for the Tsek.ph collaborative fact-checking project. Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler

MEDIA, ACADEME. UP President Danilo Concepcion (7th from left) joins representatives of newsgroups and universities after the signing of the MOU for the Tsek.ph collaborative fact-checking project.

Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler

The initial 11 media partners of Tsek.ph are ABS‐CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs, Baguio Midland Courier, Central Luzon TV (CLTV) 36, Interaksyon, Mindanews, Philippine Star, Philstar.com, Probe Productions, Rappler, Vera Files, and UP's radio station DZUP.

"This is exactly the ideal situation when the guardians of fact, the newsgroups, actually all come together to make sure that truth is protected and that lies are debunked," said Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

For his part, news producer Paolo Santos of CLTV 36 said that with the Tsek.ph platform, they could help monitor election-related claims in their region. "Dito kami huhugot ng mga mahahalagang impormasyon lalung-lalo na bilang kabahagi ng mga educational institution sa Central Luzon," he said. (Here's where we will get important information, especially as partners of educational institutions in Central Luzon.)

The 3 partners from the academe are UP, De La Salle University, and Ateneo de Manila University. Khan explained that the academe can help "put in context how the [media] partners have approached" the fact checks, in case newsrooms differ in their evaluation of a claim.

In a statement, UP's Journalism Department said the Tsek.ph partners hope to "prevent a repeat of the country's experience in the 2016 election during which 'fake news,' hoaxes and other forms of disinformation were deployed to influence voters' choices, deceive the public and undermine rational debates."

"They share the belief that voters need accurate information on which to base their decisions, weigh the merits of each candidate and have reliable media platforms where issues can be explored and discussed freely to sustain democracy," it added. 

More media partners will be invited to the project, said UP's Journalism Department.

Rappler and Vera Files are verified signatories to IFCN's Code of Principles. Both are also currently among the third-party fact-check partners of Facebook.

Tsek.ph is supported by the Facebook Journalism Project and technology provider Meedan. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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