In February 2023, Meedan partnered with fact-checking organization Teyit in the aftermath of the earthquake to support fact-checking efforts, as well as the localization of essential information and making it available to Arabic-speaking communities devastated by the earthquake. The partnership was extended to also tackle mis/disinformation related to the Turkey 2023 elections. 

Founded in 2016, Teyit aims to promote critical thinking in information ecosystems through fact-checking and media literacy initiatives. 

In their report titled "The State of Information Disorder: 2023 Turkish Presidential and General Elections,” Teyit exposes and debunks misleading information disseminated by politicians before and during Turkey’s 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. The report warns that similar information trends may resurface in the lead-up to the Turkish local elections in 2024.

The fact-checking organization reviewed over 200 claims and found patterns behind the misleading information that Turkish voters were exposed to, and provided hints on what to expect in upcoming elections in Turkey or other countries. 

In their report, they summarize their key findings, which indicate the following:

  • Our Statement-Check initiative revealed that politicians frequently tread on "misleading," "exaggeration," and "true, but..." grounds.
  • In their conventional fact-checks concerning misinformation on social media platforms, the recurrent false claims were branded as "false connection," "manipulation," and "misleading."
  • The 2023 elections witnessed a surge in asymmetric propaganda on social media aiming to sway voter sentiment.
  • While the emergence of AI-driven deepfake videos garnered attention, it was the more rudimentary 'cheapfakes' that prevailed in the 2023 campaign trail.
  • Misleading claims on national security were especially linked to cheapfake content.
  • Misinformation campaigns aimed at refugees, asylum seekers, and the LGBTI+ community further exacerbated polarization.
  • Attempts to mold citizens' truth perceptions through repetitive misleading claims were palpably aided by mainstream media.

Some Teyit members were harassed or exposed publicly for the critical work they've done during the elections. According to Teyit’s report, these actions “shed the light on the precarious environment fact-checkers often operate within.”

“At the very essence of our collective drive, we were spurred by a profound commitment to safeguarding the electoral process,” explains Mert Can Yılmaz, a researcher at Teyit. “It was not merely about verifying facts, but it was about championing truth and fostering a culture of informed dialogue and critical reflection.”

Teyit tracked and analyzed misleading information related to the elections. After a tight race and a second-round run-off vote, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan extended his two decades in power. The 2023 elections reflect Turkey’s continuing political polarization, further exacerbated by a general environment of uncertainty fueled by misinformation and propaganda. 

Fact-checks and debunks produced and disseminated by Teyit accumulated an audience reach leading to 92 million social media impressions in May 2023 alone, and 4.1 million engagements across social media platforms—a number that testifies to the demand for fact-checking work and verified information in the context of elections. Furthermore, Teyit’s fact-checking work during the elections was picked up by mainstream media over 100 times: 11 times by local TV, 74 times by newspapers and 28 times by international media. 

Minority groups including Syrian refugees and LGBTQ+ were directly and indirectly targeted in the disinformation campaigns. For example, a false story claimed that some Syrian refugees will be able to vote during the Turkish elections. 

“In a world marked by information silos and increasing polarization, we understand that venturing out of ingrained beliefs can be discomfiting for many. Challenging deep-seated narratives and beliefs can incite defensive reactions. However, it's crucial to underscore that the essence of our work isn't to target individuals or groups but to venerate the truth and facilitate informed discourse.” - Mert Can Yılmaz, researcher at Teyit.

Read the full report on Teyit’s website here.

Tags
Misinformation
Fact-Checking
Elections
Election integrity
Turkey

Footnotes

  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.

References

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Published on
October 19, 2023
October 19, 2023