Digital Fact-Checking Tools

How to Use Digital Fact-Checking Tools

Publishers are tackling misinformation head on by encouraging their reporters and editors to use digital fact-checking tools. Here’s what you need to know.

Digital journalists are working overtime to avoid having their articles branded as “fake news.” In its new survey on the State of Technology in Global Newsrooms, the International Center for Journalists found that 75% of news managers (editors and publishers) say they are concerned about the impact of misinformation on the media industry.

In an effort to combat the issue, the ICFJ found that one-third of news organizations now have dedicated fact-checkers on staff, and 37% of journalists say they are engaging in more fact-checking activities over the past year than previously.

Hiring in-house fact-checkers is a strategy that may work well for legacy publishers, but what about smaller, digital-first outlets? With leaner budgets, often operating on razor-thin margins, many web publishers can’t afford to hire teams of full-time fact-checkers.

For small and mid-size web publishers, digital fact-checking tools offer the benefit of reducing misinformation without the associated costs that come with hiring full-time employees.

In the ICFJ survey, more than two-thirds of journalists and editors said they believe digital tools have a positive impact on their work, and they improve both news quality and audience engagement. Let’s take a closer look at how digital fact-checking tools actually work and which ones are worth trying out.

The Best Digital Fact-Checking Tools

It’s a good idea to always fact-check your work, whether you’re publishing an article, a video, or even an image. These digital fact-checking tools can help prevent you from accidentally publishing inaccurate information.

1. Snopes
Snopes is one of the most well-known digital fact-checking tools. The website has been around since the 1990s, and its information is highly-regarded among journalists. Snopes specializes in urban legends and misinformation. To use the site, head to the search bar and look up topics by keyword or click on the “What’s New” tab to see the latest fact checks from Snopes’ editorial team.

2. Google Fact Check Tools
Did you know that Google has its own set of digital fact-checking tools? With Google Fact Check Tools, you can search for topics by keyword and review timelines of current fact-checks on mainstream news stories. Google Fact Check Tools works best when you are researching well-known people and topics. It is less useful for fact-checking local news stories or memes that have gone viral.

3. First Draft
First Draft is an organization that is dedicated to improving skills and standards in reporting. One of the many excellent features available through First Draft’s website is a Verification Toolbox, which was designed to streamline fact-checking and verification for beginners. Digital reporters can run reverse image searches, research the real people behind social media handles, and lookup location information through a host of mapping tools all provided through the First Draft website.

4. Fake News Debunker
The Fake News Debunker by InVID and WeVerify is a browser plugin designed to help journalists fact-check the content they find on social networks. The plugin’s tools provide reporters with contextual information on Facebook and YouTube videos, combined with capabilities to perform reverse image searches. Fake News Debunker can fragment video from platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram into keyframes. Users can then enhance these keyframes through a magnifying lens and apply forensic filters on still images to learn even more about the content they are viewing. Fake News Debunker is one of the most valuable digital fact-checking tools for any reporter that re-publishes online video content.

5. Internet Archive Wayback Machine
It’s not hard for people to change websites or pull down content when reporters start asking questions. Thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, reporters have a way to access older versions of the web. This tool has captured more than 396 billion web pages at various points in time, so reporters can choose a calendar date and view what a webpage looked like on that specific day. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is especially useful when reporters are investigating information that they believe may have been edited or deleted from a website.

6. Hoaxy
Originally developed to study how information is diffused on social media, Hoaxy is an interesting tool that help reporters visualize the spread of claims over time. Reporters can directly search Twitter and visualize results from the past seven days using Hoaxy. They can also see how many times specific story links were shared and then generate visualizations that document the spreading process. Those visualizations can quickly be shared on a publisher’s website or social media pages, or they can be embedded into articles using a special Hoaxy widget.

To learn more about the best tools for digital reporting, check out this list of the top automatic transcription tools and this list of the best image search engines for newsrooms.