Methodology of the project work
The methodology which the organization uses in its work is based on the main principles of fact-checking, observing standards of journalism and ethical rules of media culture.
The specialists of the organization check:
- statements of the heads of the country, civil servants, political leaders, opinion-makers, other top persons which concern social, economic, cultural questions, education, healthcare, safety, gender equality, international position of the state;
- short-term politicians’, civil servants’, political activists’ statements;
- public narratives which influence public opinion;
- viral posts on social networks and messengers;
- viral photo and video materials;
- during the elections: campaign materials, information booklets, leaflets, billboards;
- publications, news in the top media;
- fake accounts on social networks which help spread viral messages.
The activities of project specialists are aimed at:
- exposing fakes, manipulations, other formats of information distortion;
- identifying and detecting false facts in the objects of inspection;
- counteracting propaganda;
- informing about research, analytics, new tools and methodologies related to counteracting any manifestations of misinformation;
- providing a wide range of readers with authentic, verified content.
Methodology and checking algorithms.
The project specialists adhere to the following algorithm and methodology for verifying information in their work,:
1. Monitoring with the help of working algorithms and chatbots of information messages with an emphasis on top persons’ statements, viral messages on social networks and messengers, media and networks of garbage resources.
Content is monitored exclusively in open public sources available to a wide range of readers.
2. Detection of suspicious viral content by primary signs / markers; fixing such content by storing links to sources of distribution, copying text and illustrations, creating scanned copies (with fixing the source of distribution, time, geography, etc.).
3. Initial analysis by a specialist who monitors and verifies, as well as by other experts of the organization:
- presence of “facts” for verification;
- possibility to check them;
- classification of identified “facts” that need to be verified into key and secondary ones;
- causal links between the “facts” and the logic of the declared arguments to establish the need to verify them;
- idden sense.
4. For the initial analysis, project specialists select only those messages, statements, theses, messages that have a complete opinion; their interpretation is unambiguous and clear and there can be no other interpretation of their content; they are not taken out of the general information context.
When it comes to checking viral content that is distributed on social networks and messengers, the following criteria are taken into account:
- which source spreads the information;
- what is the distribution and coverage of the message;
- importance and relevance at the time of detection;
- the degree of potential threat to users.
5. The following messages, statements, theses are not taken for analysis and verification by project specialists:
- judgments, factless interpretations of events and phenomena which are the author’s own opinion;
- messages, statements or theses that are aimed at the future (will happen someday) and do not contain specific time limits;
- their meaning is not clear and may have several interpretations;
- the opinion of the “author” is not complete or is taken out of the general information context (for example, part of the comment of the expert which was used by the media).
6. f the initial analysis of the message has established primary and secondary “facts”, the causal links between the “facts” and the possibility of their verification by a specialist and the project experts, the primary analysis and selection of sources that can be used are conducted.
Verification is done exclusively with the help of data from open sources. By open sources we mean:
– official state resources of different levels; registers, databases, statistical and documentary data that are publicly available;
- official international sources;
- official state sources of other countries;
- non-governmental international, but professional and recognized by the world community ones;
- scientific and specialized publications (state and international), which are recognized as professional ones;
- international electronic libraries, encyclopedias, reference books;
- recognized, specialized, professional software that can be used for research, and its results can technically be made public;
- materials in top professional international publications (provided that the edition adheres to the standards of journalism, and the information published by it has at least three sources of verification);
- official documentary requests to state and international authorities.
7. Sources that do not meet the international fact-checking criteria are not used to check the resource by specialists:
- insider data that have no source;
- statements of witnesses, participants of events, if they do not have documentary evidence;
- expert opinion, if it is not based on documentary data and is exclusively a judgment, interpretation, personal vision of the event, phenomenon;
- data that are published in other media, but do not have a clear source of confirmation or are the result of research of the publication itself.
8. When working with open sources, project specialists are guided by the rules and recommendations set out in these sources, so that the arguments obtained correspond to real data, are not distorted, their interpretation corresponds to the actual characteristics and properties of this data.
Another rule is reasonable sufficiency. Data from open sources, which are used as arguments of the study, should be clear to the reader, logically presented in the material, not overload the text with unnecessary complex elements, clearly reveal the essence of exposure or refutation.
The refutation itself should be logical, informative, but compact. The text should contain references to the sources the data used in the material were taken from, in the form of hyperlinks and correct, official names of the sources themselves.
If it is necessary to use screenshots of documents or copies of documents, they must have a clear image, be large enough for the user to read the details of the document, have seals, stamps, official paraphernalia (header, emblem, output / input data, etc.).
If a suspicious message or statement is detected, if the message is complex in subject matter and content and contains not 1-2 but more “facts” or special knowledge or skills are required to process data from sources, a working group of 2-5 specialists and experts may be created. In this case, the responsibilities of the specialists involved are clearly divided, and interaction is established during the work.
9. After the check of the suspicious message by the project specialist, the statement, the message, or the thesis passes through several layers of verification by project experts:
- verification of the sources used – whether they are official and recognized, whether they are appropriate for verification in that particular context, their correct names, the presence of hyperlinks to them;
- verification of data from sources – interpretation, accuracy of presentation, logic of use;
- verification of the general logic of the study;
- verification of the author’s own opinion (the author, like experts, has no right to express his/her opinion about the context or object of the investigation as such actions can discredit the investigation, make it subjective and, as a consequence, unqualified and biased;
- verification of the accuracy of the established investigation verdict (investigation verdicts are set in accordance with fixed criteria, which are recognized by all project specialists and are key in the work);
- verification of new data, or changes in previous data that may have appeared during the preparation of the publication;
- verification of errors, typos.
10. In case of shortcomings or errors that have been identified by experts, the invesigation is sent for revision by the author with clear recommendations for improvement and deadlines.
11. In case of compliance with all standards and compliance with all rules specified in Paragraph 9, the investigation is submitted for final verification and approval by the project manager.
If errors or shortcomings are identified, the study is sent for revision.
The research, which has been verified by the project manager, is published on the resource’s website in compliance with all technical requirements and standards, and then distributed through partner media and resource pages on social networks.
12. After the publication and dissemination of the investigation, the reactions and responses of the readership are monitored to analyze the quality and relevance of the investigation, and further improvement of the work of both individual professionals and the resource as a whole.