On November 20, 2020 the Check Global program organized a regional event for its partners from the Asia-Pacific region. The event brought together 11 organizations, including our long term partners and a new community of civil society organizations from the region who were awarded microgrants as part of Check Global’s COVID-19 response fund.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for civil society groups, newsrooms and fact-checkers. Yet, we were blown away by the energy at the Check Global event organised for the APAC region on November 20,2020. There were 16 attendees from 11 groups who shared videos, slides, data and analyses of how they’ve been able to address the Covid-19 pandemic through their work this year.

The groups that came together for this event included current and past Check Global partners from APAC, Covid-19 microgrant recipients from the region as well as other civil society and independent groups working from South Asia to East Asia.

The discussion that followed the introductions and presentations by each group was extremely relevant for the region. Here are learnings and highlights from each of the participant organizations:

Open Development Cambodia - Providing the public easy access to up-to-date, reliable and fact-checked data is critical in order to understand the progression of the pandemic and policy measures adopted by the government.

Sadbhavana Trust, India - The COVID-19 mobility restrictions further curtailed the movement of women and made them more vulnerable to gender-based violence. For an organization that works with women on such a sensitive issue, it was important for their digital / remote intervention to be as effective as their work during ‘normal’ times when face-face interactions were possible.

Disability Empowerment Society, Nepal - Rights in the civic space are often biased against differently abled. Advocacy for the rights of differently abled and their empowerment through technology became more significant and urgent during the pandemic.

Lalang Hu Mga Laga, Philippines - It is important to connect women from local communities who are off the grid; during the pandemic there is a need to create a safe online environment and build trust and connections with community members.

BasaBali, Indonesia - The underserved and minority communities of Bali were open to discuss challenges faced during the pandemic. Better understanding of the local language and culture is key for greater reach and impact.

Saraswati Foundation, Nepal - Conventional means of communication such as FM radio and content in local languages were important to effectively disseminate crucial health information to minority populations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rappler, Philippines - Fact-checking is crucial for quality online information during times such as the current pandemic when information is scarce and biased. Media literacy programs that raise awareness about fact-checking and introduce more people to verification and fact-checking tools are also necessary during such times.

Taiwan Fact Check Center - Media literacy programmes and collaborations with organizations that work among different sections of the population such as the youth, elderly and teachers are important in making fact-checking more effective.

VERA Files, Philippines - Fact-checking and verification training often face the obstacle of poor internet connectivity in rural areas. Short videos and translations in different local languages can help in reaching a wider audience.

Tempo, Indonesia - Fact-checking organizations value both editorial independence and sustainability. While advertisements are often a common financial strategy, transitioning to a subscription model is often needed to maintain independence.

There was a strong vote for more regional events in the future; given our contexts that are similar, time zones that are closer and issues that are common, the group present at the event advocated for the Check Global Network to take the lead in organising online events for APAC in the coming year as well. The events can ensure greater sharing of strategies and best practices and with more time built in for reflection and discussion, the events can also provide an opportunity for groups in different countries to express solidarity with each other during challenging times.

The role of fact-checkers has been extremely critical in 2020. From addressing misinformation related to elections in some countries to combating a pandemic - their work has been relentless and significant in 2020. Yet, fact-checkers have been targeted and criticised for their work, for not leaning towards majoritarian views and for taking on challenging issues. A suggestion was made to document this work of fact-checkers through a video reflecting the work of fact-checkers from across the APAC region.

With Covid-19 vaccination programs being planned or rolled out in 2021, the region expects to witness a fresh wave of disinformation and conspiracies on the vaccine. The group expressed the need for events that bring together health professionals and journalists with the goal of bridging the two fields of medicine and communication together so that we could collectively prepare well and strengthen our work towards health-related fact checking.

Check Global program and the Check Global Network are committed to taking forward these ideas in 2021.

  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.
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Published on
December 16, 2020
April 20, 2022