The Week in Fact Checking: Fact-checking immigration as a vertical

One out of every three stories that readers submit to Maldito Bulo for fact-checking is related to immigration.

That’s why, the digital media outlet that houses Spanish fact-checking site Maldito Bulo, launched on Tuesday a parallel project called Maldita Migración. The minisite is dedicated to uncovering data and fact-checking hoaxes about migration. The new part-time reporter, Yuly Jara, will also cover the impact of immigration disinformation on communities around Spain.

The move is of note because fact-checking projects are typically run as generalist affairs. While a handful of fact-checkers like Climate Feedback concentrate specifically on one topic, most cover several themes of public relevance from economics to health.

Still, is not the only project for which migration is a key topic. (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact hired a dedicated fact-checker, Miriam Valverde, in 2016 “because we knew it would be an important issue in the campaign, and it needed specialized reporting expertise,” editor Angie Holan said.

Fact-checking immigration has its own particular challenges. Valverde said it can be a field with “limited, insufficient and inconsistent data” — at least in the United States, where many of the claims for fact-checking are about illegal immigration.

PolitiFact maintained the immigration beat beyond 2016 “because it’s still central to American political discussion.”

What is true in Spain and the United States is true elsewhere. Of the nine fact-checking projects that responded to an IFCN Slack poll this week, five said immigration is one of their three most fact-checked topics. (Of note: all of them were from Europe — as we’ve written in the past, hoaxes about refugees travel well across European borders.)

Besides institutionalizing an editorial reality, then, fact-checking verticals may also open the door to new funders and readers for whom the topic is important. Valverde’s initial position was supported by a crowdfunding campaign. The Spanish project is funded by Oxfam Intermón, the Spanish affiliate of an NGO that fights poverty ( co-founder Clara Jiménez Cruz said that it was “extremely clear” to Oxfam Intermón that they would play no role in editorial decisions).

Initial interest in Maldita Migración has been high, Cruz said. The project picked up 12,000 followers on Twitter in one day.

This is new

  • Older Americans share more fake news than young people. But they also share more facts, Daniel wrote.
  • Satire continues to be a sticking point for fact-checkers — and a source for fake news websites looking to rip off content. In this case, AFP debunked a post claiming that a Chinese lunar rover found no evidence of American moon landings.
  • In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, three researchers laid out a few ways to combat science misinformation, including financial transparency.

The bad place

  • Conspiracy theories about the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health dominated YouTube last week, The Washington Post reported, a sign that YouTube’s changes in its algorithms to surface more reliable videos involving major news events still needs more work.
  • Instagram influencers are being paid to promote misinformation about health fads like celery juice.
  • In the Philippines, Facebook announced it was banning a digital marketing company for creating accounts and pages that violated its policy regarding inauthentic behavior.

A closer look

  • Trump’s been the most-fact checked president because of the “drip-drip-drip” of his exaggerations, plus his unabashed willingness to repeat falsehoods, says PolitiFact’s Angie Holan.  
  • WhatsApp has commissioned several researchers to investigate misinformation on the app and look for ways to address it.
  • Not all fake news is online. Fake editions of The Washington Post were being handed out at multiple locations in D.C. A self-described “trickster activist collective” called “the Yes Men” said they produced the papers — and it wasn’t the first time they were involved in spoofing a major newspaper.

If you read one more thing

  • This thread from Storyful’s Aoife Gallegher does a good job breaking down how misinformation spreads on the internet.

10 quick fact-checking links

  1. Facebook’s fact-checking project has expanded to the United Kingdom with the addition of Full Fact.
  2. Advance copies of Jill Abramson’s book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,” show a fact-checking problem in book publishing, says Vox.
  3. Journalists fact-check President Trump on Twitter: Wheels aren’t older than walls.
  4. Former Weekly Standard fact-checker Holmes Lybrand has moved to CNN.
  5. NBC News dug into the story of how the operator of fake news websites was behind the GoFundMe fundraiser that promised to help privately fund a wall at the southern border.
  6. MediaWise created a 15-minute video with tips about how to fact-check misinformation on the internet.
  7. A staffer at Q13 Fox in Seattle was fired after digitally manipulating a video of Donald Trump to make him look more orange.
  8. The parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting won a preliminary legal victory in their defamation lawsuit against notorious misinformer Alex Jones, who pushed false statements about the tragedy.
  9. The Chicago Tribune fact-checked mentions of its city in Chevy Chase’s new Netflix movie “The Last Laugh.”
  10. Researchers retracted a study about misinformation after they found an error in the processing of their findings.

Until next week,

Daniel, Susan and Alexios


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