Misinformation, disinformation and rumours have the potential to spread rapidly on social media, undermining trust in public discourse and damaging social cohesion. FactCheckNI established Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated fact-checking service.
In addition to publishing fact-checked claim articles, we offer training on dealing with misinformation, disinformation, and fact-checking and critical thinking skills.
Fact checking is a process of scrutinising assertions of fact, either in written texts, or verbal statements. The rise in open data and advances in digital technology increasingly enable members of the public to access fact-checking tools and information, often through specialist organisations focused on specific countries or regions.
FactCheckNI was launched on 7 April 2016, as a collaboration between the Northern Ireland Foundation and Transformative Connections. The project was part of the Building Change Trust’s Civic Activism Programme, which aimed to bring decision-making closer to the citizens of Northern Ireland, through the use of innovative and creative engagement methods.
FactCheckNI seeks to promote a political debate that is rooted in numbers and facts, rather than stereotypes and prejudices. With a “bottom-up” approach, FactCheckNI works with all people and communities, in a bid in increase engagement with political discourse.
Our work has two elements:
- a fact-checking website with fact-checked claim articles
- training for members of the public and community / voluntary groups in dealing with misinformation/disinformation, as well as developing fact-checking and critical thinking skills
FactCheckNI is the first dedicated fact-checking site for Northern Ireland. We are guided by an advisory panel — reflecting the functions and audiences of their work, including official statistics, journalism, law, training, education, community engagement and public affairs.
Initial research of fact-checking websites across the world enabled us to get a good understanding of the range of activities underway in other communities. In addition, we actively networked with other fact-checking organisations and built an active mentoring relationship with Full Fact, a highly respected and well-established charitable organisation. This enabled us to gain valuable lessons and insights as we set up their website and avoid reinventing the wheel.
Peer support from the wider, international fact-checking community has been very helpful, and FactcheckNI became a verified signatory and active member of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which in turn informs social media platforms on their practices in relation to the spread of misinformation and disinformation.
The advisory panel has played an important role in ensuring the FactCheckNI’s transparency, credibility and non-partisan approach. This has been particularly important in terms of fact-checking in Northern Ireland, given the political and social context here.
The training offer has also been well received, with a wide range of people taking part — from all backgrounds and age groups. Over the course of the project, we’ve trained over one thousand people.
Thanks in part to FactCheckNI’s ability to establish credibility and collaborative approaches, we recently became part of a consortium on a European Commission funded project called “Co-Inform”, which involves universities and SMEs in seven European countries. Co-Inform’s project objective is to create tools that will increase society’s resilience to online misinformation and to generate more informed behaviours and policies across Europe.
FactCheckNI is currently transitioning to being a sustainable fact-checking and training service, while maintaining our independence.
Our training service requires continual engagement and promotion. The evolving nature of fact-checking means that we have to address new issues as they arise. FactCheckNI will ensure its material is kept up to date and accurate.
FactCheckNI has benefited from a professionally supported international network; the ensuing cooperation has enabled us to inform international fact-checking practice, as well as continuing to learn from others’ experiences. We look forward to further collaborative work.