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The Week in Fact-Checking: Let’s talk less about Facebook and more about what journalism can do to fight fake news

In the weeks since the “what-just-happened-here” U.S. presidential election, columnists, opinion writers and reporters have: (1) blamed Facebook (2) blamed themselves (3) lectured readers (4) chastised teachers and (5) created fake-news tip sheets and other such things. Self-assessment, anyone? Here are some steps for journalism to take now. 

Quote of the week
“Refuse to accept information simply because it is fed to you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That is now the base level of what is required of all Americans. If facts become a point of debate, the very definition of freedom will be called into question.” — Lauren Duca, writing in Teen Vogue

Africa Check awards 2016 prizes
Africa Check has announced its latest fact-checking awards, which include top prizes for an investigation into false land-use claims and a false claim by government officials about gifts of laptops to African students. “Our winning entries show why it is so important that journalists do not just report what public figures say, but question their claims and expose those that are not true,” said Africa Check Executive Director Peter Cunliffe-Jones.

Try these at school, home and work 
There is no shortage of advice these days for better fact-checking. Here are a few this week: Learn fact-checking from Harry Potter; this excellent video from the talented people at; a visual fact-checking quiz from the New Statesman; and how Snopes tracked down a fake viral video.

Watch the Video

Fake news hits home
A family in a tiny Washington state town was already devastated by the accidental shooting death of one of their family members.Then came the fake news stories on Facebook about the death, which called it a Trump-related suicide and falsely attributed to the (real) local newspaper. Read it.

When journalism fails: The case of Nadia and El Mundo 
When a Spanish newspaper published a sad story about a young girl and her father who both supposedly were suffering from deadly diseases, readers responded with generous donations of cash. This is what happened when other news organizations reported the story wasn’t true.

Fact-checking advice from cannabis site: Stay woke 
A web publication for cannabis enthusiasts offers a list of tips to readers on how to “spot fake news in the wild.”  Among them: Stay woke. “Weeding out fake news stories starts with you,” says the writer.

You break it, you fix it 
Entrepreneur and Sidecar co-founder Sunil Paul maintains that they only people who can fix fakery on the internet are the people who broke it. “We can create the technology, re-work social incentives, and encourage the laws to create the internet we want,” he writes. Read his plan on Medium.

Dealing with the Big Inaccurate
The Brexit campaign was in many ways dominated by one figure: 350 million. Plastered on the side of a bus, 350 million was, according to the “Leave” campaign, the amount (in British pounds) the UK paid into the EU budget every week (actually 100 million less). Full Fact’s fact check was the top hit on Google when you searched “How much do we send to the EU?” and yet about half of respondents who had heard the claim told Ipsos Mori they thought it was correct. The fact-checkers reflect on what needs to change.

Fake news and the father of “New Journalism”
Decades ago, novelist Tom Wolfe’s “New Journalism” literary style was criticized for its not-so-factual style. It’s probably no wonder that Wolfe today seems not particularly bothered by fake news. “I’m not surprised that this great moment of fake news has arrived, which I think is a laugh and a half,” he told the Daily Beast.

It’s a great time to learn about fact-checking
If you’re a teacher working on lesson plans for the new year, take a look at our free online course on fact-checking, spotting fakes, good research skills and more. Enroll here.

Some fact-checking fun 
Sometimes, the best fact-checking skill is a sense of humor. Read this “Scary Mommy” blog post about a recent uproar over a fake toy.


10 quick fact-checking links

(1) Austin, Texas, has its own #pizzagate. (2) Medical historians are complaining about the facts in a New York Times story about C-sections. (3) For the second year, Amy Webb’s “Tech Trends” report says real-time fact-checking is close. Let’s hope 2017 is the year. (4) This is how Facebook became the bad guy. (5) Postfaktish is the word of the year in Germany. Yeah, you can guess what it means. (6) Facebook patents point to movement on the fake news front. (7) How many non-facts can you fit in a tweet? Trump managed four. (8) Here’s the big winner of PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” contest. (9) Bellingcat fact-checks a Syrian child. (10) Vanity Fair fact-checked the friendship between Donald Trump and Kanye West.

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