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Tipline promotion and a community of citizen fact-checkers: Insights from BOOM

BOOM is one of India’s first and leading fact-checking groups. BOOM was the first Indian member of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), the first to partner with Facebook on its Third Party Fact-Checking programme from India and among the first fact-checkers to launch a WhatsApp tipline (+91 7700906588) to which users can send social media posts and forwards for verification. In this blogpost, Jency Jacob, Managing Editor of BOOM, speaks about the idea behind a tipline, strategies for promoting their tipline and how they are building a community of citizen fact-checkers.  

1) BOOM was among the first fact-checking organizations in India and the first fact-checker in the country to obtain an IFCN certification. How has the fact-checking ecosystem changed in India over time?

Since we began fact-checking in 2017 and received our IFCN certification in March 2018, a lot has changed. From two fact-checkers in 2017, the country now has fifteen fact-checking websites and several other mainstream media newsrooms who have dedicated resources for the purpose. Over the years, newsrooms are slowly understanding the importance of verifying every information they receive on social media, political speeches are getting closely scrutinised and national media organisations are also being held accountable for playing fast and loose with facts. Platforms are also understanding the social impact of disinformation and working with fact-checkers to reduce the quantum of false information. 

2) How is misinformation on encrypted platforms different or similar to that in other platforms? What was BOOM’s thought process behind setting up a WhatsApp tipline?

There is not much difference in the misinformation we see on encrypted platforms and other social media platforms. Videos are very popular on encrypted platforms and very often we have seen that old videos and images are recycled with new text that are often communal in nature. We set up a helpline in 2018 as it helped us crowdsource misinformation received by our readers.The WhatsApp tipline also helps us stay updated and debunk misinformation before it goes viral and beyond our reach. 

3) How have you been using Check in managing your fact-checking work and workflow? What more do you expect Check to do?

Yes, Check is incorporated into our workflow. Every morning, we flag messages that have been sent to us on the Check tipline number and discuss if there are potential fact-checks on the same. 

Of late, we have seen a lot of gory videos on the tipline and it would be better if a content warning message could be added by an AI for violent content. Secondly, the similarity matching feature introduced by Check is good and would be great if it could be made more precise to match items like videos and images which have somewhat similar text.

4) What are your plans for expanding your tipline audience and engagement in the future?

We have been heavily promoting our tip line ever since we launched it. We plan to promote the tipline with images and videos every Monday on all the four major platforms and use swipe up links to directly reach WhatsApp. We also plan to use taglines such as ‘Fight fake news’ and ‘Verify with us’ across Instagram posts to ensure high recall value of the phrase and the sentiment and drive user behaviour to do the right thing.

5) You work in different Indian languages and regions. How important is that in addressing misinformation in India?

We are present in two Indian languages, Hindi and Bengali (apart from English), currently and work with a platform in two Southern states to fact-check in Kannada and Malayalam. Regional language fact-checking is of huge importance as misinformation also thrives in regional languages, especially during state elections. We will be expanding our team to fact-check in more Indian languages. 

6) What are the post-pandemic changes that you have made in your fact-checking work?

Our fact-checking process remains the same. Due to the unique nature of our work, we had already built in processes to work remotely that proved to be useful when the pandemic hit us in March 2020. Over the last one year, we have strengthened the team to fact-check more health related claims, which will continue to be a key focus area in the coming months as well. We have also scaled up our digital and media literacy programme, run a vaccine campaign for senior citizens as well as workshops across age groups on the importance of keeping our information landscape clean. 

7) BOOM recently started a Facebook group called the Truth Seekers and a webinar series. What is it about and what do you intend to achieve?

Truth Seekers is our latest initiative under BOOM’s membership program to bring together a community of citizen fact-checkers who believe in our work and mission. We are keen to expand our work and evangelise fact-checking to a larger audience. So, this is a small step towards building that highly focused and engaged audience. There are a lot of skilled professionals among our readers who can help us debunk complex claims. This is our way of seeking their support and expertise.

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