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Fact-checking website launched in time for the Philippines’ May 2019 elections

Credit: University of the Philippines/Bong Arboleda

Because of the upcoming Philippine midterm elections, scheduled on 13 May 2019, a collaborative fact-checking project was recently launched at the Quezon Hall of the University of the Philippines (UP), Diliman campus.

According to a recent press release, the University entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with two other Philippine universities and several media organisations to establish a website that will be the repository of their fact-checking claims, made in connection with the May 2019 elections.

The Tsek.ph project arose from the growing threats of disinformation and misinformation in traditional and online media that affect the health of democratic countries and the power of the citizens to make informed choices during elections.

The project aims to combat false news and other forms of disinformation in the lead‐up to the May 2019 polls.

Fact-checking is a very controversial and, often, confrontational activity, according to the University’s Vice President for Public Affairs and Professor of Communication Research.

But, she added that good journalists and the academe, which are represented, know that it is essential, especially at this time when the country is at the cusp of national elections.

Moreover, it is essentially important for the citizens because it can aid in the decisions about who to vote for.

The project was spearheaded by UP’s College of Mass Communication’s (CMC) Journalism Department, the College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science, and the College of Law.

The initial batch of fact-checking partners includes news organisations and three universities such as the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and the De La Salle University (DLSU).

More media partners will be invited to Tsek.ph.

As reported, media partners will be working independently of each other but will contribute to the body of fact-checked information.

The project is also supported by the Facebook Journalism Project; a non-profit social technology company; and the Macaranas Journalism Grant.

Tsek.ph would be guided by the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in checking the following:

  1. Platforms and campaign promises of candidates
  2. Statements and remarks made by candidates, personalities, government agencies, and other entities
  3. Election-related posts on social media, blogs, and other platforms

Based on the fact-checking done, the claims will then be given the following ratings:

  1. Accurate
  2. False
  3. Misleading
  4. No basis
  5. Needs context

There is a need for different ratings because kinds of disinformation and misinformation are not always equal. This will help the people differentiate the levels of disinformation.

The Head of the Journalism Department, who will also serve as the website’s secretariat, explained that a true statement that is taken out of context can still be false.

There will also be a form, to be filled out by citizens, available on the website. This is for those who want to submit claims for fact-checking.

Hopefully, the project will be a one-stop shop so that the public will have a way of finding out what the truth is and to verify the information that has been given out during the campaigns and election programs.

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