DigitEye India (https://digiteye.in) is an exclusive and full-fledged fact checking initiative started in 2018. We follow the journalistic norms learnt at Reuters and other global and Indian news entities over the last two decades to vet the news while fact-checking. Here is our methodology.
1. Identifying a claim to fact check:
Digiteye India keeps a constant tab on social media and mainstream media for incorrect or tweaked information to mislead people. However, we refrain from trivial entertainment or satire-based stories for fact-checking. Currently, we are focusing on the following areas for fact-checking:
— All political, social and religious claims and criticisms made by leaders, politicians and political parties, institutions and officials are taken up for fact-checking. Provocative hashtags on social media to influence public opinion in favour of or against a particular political leader form part of our fact checking, especially in the election year. Also claims intentionally put out to spread false news, spread hatred among the communities and provocative in nature are taken for fact checking.
— Over a period, we have compiled social media suspects’ list containing groups, Facebook Pages, websites and accounts, which we follow constantly and check their messages daily. Based on our team expertise and capacity, we prioritize the number of fact checks on how viral they are being shared and the source.
— We strive to write articles for information in public domain in a simple language with all the links to debunk the claims made, enabling our readers to verify the information for themselves. Whenever we find the information insufficient, we refrain from passing on any conclusive judgement and make it clear.
— We encourage our readers to send us messages and claims that may have raised their eyebrows and need to be fact-checked. We have provided a contact form on every story for the purpose. In addition, we have an exclusive WhatsApp hotline number (7483881081) where readers can send us links to messages that are being shared on the social media.
— We vet the claims and messages for their news value, impact on a larger number of people and the motive behind such claims. Highly sensitive and rumour-mongering social media messages require to be fact-checked immediately and here we ensure that a quick and timely research has been carried out to fact-check them.
2. Primary source checking:
We look for primary source unless it is coming from a secondary source, which could be a news agency or another established news outlet. After selecting the news or a claim for fact-checking, we conduct thorough online research to trace the origin of the news or a claim. Once the origin is established, it is cross-checked with the official news sources for trustworthiness.
We follow globally acknowledged tools of verification for fact-checking such as Google search, Google Reverse Image Search, InVid Verification tool, video inspection tools, Google Earth and Google Maps. Depending on the story, we use multiple tools of fact-checking and explain the process for our readers, so they can replicate the fact-checking and also be aware of such false information in the future.
3. Online research for evidence:
Here are some of the online research tools we use for our fact-checking process:
— Google search, especially the chronological search within a certain time frame is one area where we were able to pinpoint certain old stories published in the past and corroborate findings to match current news events. In some cases, published e-papers were found to prove the fact-checks as was done in Sri Lanka story.
— Google Reverse Image search: Enabled with Google Reverse Image Search, our fact checkers use the right click method to check for any image’s origin and old usage of it in published formats around the globe. In some cases, we could point out the photo flipping method used by miscreants to tweak photos to make them escape Reverse Image Search. This was done in case of of the picture depicting Rahul Gandhi saluting the tricolour with left hand.
— InVid Verification tool, which has been enabled in Google extension is another open-source video / image verification tool that is often used by us for a quick verification or to get the context of the image or video, whether it was used in Facebook / YouTube / Instagram / Twitter videos. This tools also searches in Baidu or Yandex search engines.
— Image inspection is another key aspect of our fact-checking process. We look for clues such as time, place, shadow angle to estimate the time, the direction of wind, precipitation, number plates of vehicles, language on vehicles, sign boards on streets, vehicle makes, hoardings, name boards, among others.
— Social media is a key platform where we look for fake messages, tweaked information, wrong images, videos and the wordings. In addition, we have a long list of suspect social media users who have been active to spread false news or biased opinions or tweaked views aimed at triggering misconceptions among the general public. Once we find out who started spreading misinformation, it is easier for us prove them wrong with collateral facts collected after due diligence.
— Google Earth, Google Maps, Street view have been used to effectively find out the truth on the location before and after, since on-the-spot reporting cannot be done in all news stories. Google Maps also provides several clues such as distance between airports, cities, mode of transportation required.
4. Journalistic contacts:
We were able to contact police officials in case of the Sabarimala temple controversy, though we could not name the officials to ensure their confidentiality of their identity. In addition we have gleaned information from PIB, respective ministries, private think tanks among others.
Our focus is always on primary source but the secondary source is relied upon in conjunction with reliable proof collected and confirmed by experts in the field. Preferably, those willing to go on record will be quoted in our stories unless they seek anonymity on safety grounds.
As journalists, we maintain close contacts with the political parties, leaders, field experts and officials. In addition, we contact religious establishments and non-profit research institutions to check veracity of facts used in news or social media messages.
5. Adherence to journalism norms:
We strictly follow online journalism norms by providing due links to all original sources, images and we embed social media sources or the screen shots to highlight our fact-checking process. Even if we fail to prove or disprove a claim, we say it openly. In addition, we maintain archives of all the evidence.
As a fact-checking news entity, we strive to prove false or true stories on a real-time basis. We cannot afford to delay on news front as old stories stand to loose on relevance factor. We update stories once we get more evidence and re-publish the updated story with due social media sharing informing the readers about the changes made in a story or the corrections carried out.
6. Open Correction policy:
It is our sincere endeavour to bring out the truth and mistakes may slip into our efforts. Whenever we are wrong, we say it openly and stand to correct the wrong stories. We inform our readers immediately about the correction and place the fact on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We are always open to constructive feedback and criticism from the readers and the public.
While we strive to correct the stories immediately, in some cases the correction process may take minimum ten days to be processed, re-checked and re-published. However, it may take more time depending upon data search required for the story or in case of some unavoidable circumstances. All the corrections are displayed on our Corrections page.