Digiteye India (https://digiteye.in) is an independent and full-fledged fact checking initiative, with a team of veteran journalists with experience from working with global news agency Reuters and other global and Indian news entities for over two decades. Here’s 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 or news to mislead people. However, WE REFRAIN FROM TRIVIAL ENTERTAINMENT OR SATIRE-BASED STORIES for fact-checking. Otherwise, we are currently focusing on the following areas for fact-checking:
What we fact check?
• 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 current election year — 2019.
• All claims aimed at spreading false news, hatred among communities or provocative in nature — are taken up for fact checking.
• Over a period, we have compiled a list of social media suspects on Twitter, Facebook and certain websites, which we follow constantly and check their messages daily. Based on our team expertise and capacity, we prioritize the number of fact checks.
• We strive to write articles for information in public domain, 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 Business account for IFCN signatories with a dedicated number (9632830256) where readers can send us links to messages that are being shared on the social media.
• Once we receive a tip off, we vet the claims and messages for their news value, impact on a larger number of people and the motive behind such claims. The main criteria for fact-checking a story is its potential damage and reach, if left unchecked.
• We check all claims using the same standards, while highly sensitive and rumour-mongering social media messages require to be fact-checked immediately and here we ensure that a timely research has been carried out to fact-check them.
2. Primary source checking:
We look mainly for primary source even if requests are received from users based on secondary sources such as 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 statements for trustworthiness. Often, we have reproduced the snapshots of government statements on issues to give more authenticity to fact checks.
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.
To ensure that readers could check for themselves, we have started publishing articles under three major segments — Source, Methodology and Rating.
• Source: Here, We clearly state where the narrative has been published — whether on social media or news or print media and the need to fact-check, with visual evidence and links.
• Methodology: Here, we apply the tools of fact checking such as Google Reverse Image search or video authentication or video clipping among others.
• Rating: Another essential part of our stories now is to categorize them under different ratings to enable our readers to see that not every claim we fact checked is false but there is a degree of difference. For this purpose, we have introduced the following rating system using question marks for each fact-checked story:
True – This rating means that the claim is right and the suspicion is baseless.
1. One ? mark – Exaggeration
2. Two ?? marks – Misinterpretation
3. Three ??? marks – Misrepresentation
4. Four ???? marks – Mostly False
5. Five ????? marks – Totally False
1. One mark – Exaggeration – Whenever an event, fact or number gets exaggerated.
2. Two marks – Misinterpretation – An event, fact or quote is misinterpreted, often unknowingly.
3. Three marks – Misrepresentation – an event, fact or news is intentionally twisted or tweaked with ill intention to spread hatred or incite clashes.
4. Four marks – Mostly False – Whenever an event or claim is made to subvert truth in all respects.
5. Five marks – Totally False – Whenever a claim was proved false beyond doubt.
To enable our readers to easily fact check themselves, we have ensured that all the links of images, tweets, web pages and messages are stored in online archive www.archive.is. Even if originals are removed, these captured links will be available for our readers.
3. Online research tools:
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 helpful 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 tool 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.
- Google Earth, Google Maps, Street pictures are often helpful 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 provide several clues such as distance between airports, cities, mode of transportation required.
4. Journalistic contacts:
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. In this regard, We were able to contact police officials in case of the Sabarimala temple controversy, though we could not name the officials to respect their request for confidentiality of their identity. Here, we use other tools of evidence to make the stories stronger.
Our team is encouraged to contact the personalities or experts and officials to elicit their views whenever required. In addition, we contact religious establishments and non-profit research institutions to cross-check facts used in news or social media messages. In view of Covid-19 pandemic, we have established close contacts with medical doctors and even Ayurvedic doctors for cross-checks.
5. Adherence to journalism norms:
We follow established 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. To enable our readers to easily replicate our fact checks themselves, we have ensured that all the links of images, tweets, web pages and messages are stored in online archive www.archive.is.
Even if we fail to prove or disprove a claim, we say it openly. For these stories, we give a rating of TRUE as some of them are. We update stories once we get more evidence and re-publish the updated story and duly share the information on our social media platforms for our 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 but 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 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, the correction process may take minimum ten days to be processed, re-checked and re-published. In some cases, it may take more time depending on data search required for the story or due to some unavoidable circumstances. All the corrections are displayed on our Corrections page.