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Presidential debates have finally arrived Tuesday opens the first debate between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump, moderated by Fox News presenter Chris Wallace
« We don’t expect Chris or our other moderators to be fact checkers, » said Frank J Fahrenkopf Jr, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, on « reliable sources », talk show from CNN Sunday morning « As soon as the television is off, there will be plenty of fact-checkers »
Misinformation experts say ideally a moderator would do real-time fact-checking and push candidates away when they make false claims Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, which has written several reports on the impact of disinformation campaigns, says it’s hard work « If Trump opens his usual spear of lies, it will be hard for any journalist to keep pace, ”he said
News organizations such as Fox expect there will be independent auditors ready to clear up any political errors that arise during the debate – and for good reason Since 2014, the number of audit institutions of facts rose from 44 globally to nearly 300, according to the Duke Reporter’s Lab’s annual census In the past year alone, North American fact-checking groups have grown from 60 to 69.These groups provide a sort of living encyclopedia for every fictional narrative that politicians and other public figures have tried to cement into the spirit of americans While many Americans depend on these sites to navigate public discourse, there is a limit to the number of fact-checkers who can prevent disinformation from seeping into the general public.
Much of the explosion in fact-checking organizations is a response to the rapid increase in coordinated efforts to sow disinformation on the Internet Groups in the United States in particular have been moved to fight disinformation after that a Senate intelligence committee has confirmed that Russia has used information warfare to divide the American public as a way to boost its preferred candidate in the U 2016S election President Trump, who is often rider with the truth, has also prompted a growing number of journalists and nonprofits to correct the record The call for disinformation campaigns, viral disinformation and real information taken out of context has become its call own pace in traditional media outlets
In the next debates, an army of fact-checkers will be ready to debunk any false allegations that come up But it remains a difficult task, even for professionals. Upon its release, the debate will be cut into small glib clips that will be distorted and shared endlessly on the Internet Fact-checkers will diligently tease false narratives and send corrections like a flotilla in social feeds The problem is that lies spread more easily than the truth Misinformation is designed to trigger emotionally, and people can’t resist the urge to share stories that set our skin on fire As more and more people share the lie, more people see it, and the burden of correcting the many manifestations of lying becomes heavier for fact checkers
In 2020, this accusation is particularly onerous, as a significant portion of the population has indicated that they don’t necessarily care about the facts Barrett notes that President Trump built his mark by saying the wrong things and doubling down when journalists call them fake It has made him somewhat immune to fact-checking efforts, at least among his supporters
« Most voters have made up their minds already and will not change candidates based on fact-checking, » says Barrett. « That said, fact-checking remains important, both to keep things clear and because there are a modest number of voters, some in the battlefield states, who are always open to persuasion These undecided voters may well react to warnings from fact-checkers that a candidate is contradicting the truth «
Most voters have already made up their minds and will not change candidates based on the fact check «
Yet estimates of the number of undecided voters are falling Recent polls put them between 3% and 4%
Angie Holan, editor-in-chief of Politifact, a fact-checking organization attached to the non-profit Poynter Institute of journalism, says that while her site’s primary readers are die-hard politicians, good some of the readers come to the site explicitly to help they analyze audio clips of the electoral cycle and make decisions about who they will vote for
« These are people who don’t like politics, they don’t know serious things, » she says Holan says she expects Tuesday’s debate to bring a lot of people on Politifact’s site for their live fact-checking analysis – probably the most traffic the site will see all year round She says politicians often speak in shorthand and make references to events and situations viewers with may not be familiar, and so many people rely on his organization to understand the debates This year, she expects many lines of attack and revisionist stories to be exposed
Real-time fact-checking is a challenge, but Politifact has a lot of existing research to build on « One of the secrets of live fact-checking is that candidates repeat themselves very often, so we can rely on research that has been verified in advance, « says Holan
Still, there are bigger questions about whether fact-checking efforts reach voters who don’t directly seek them Politifact optimizes its articles for Google search and rolls out its work through Facebook, Twitter , Instagram and YouTube But fact-checkers are forced to compete with the providers of disinformation on these platforms
For example, Politifact has around 7,600 subscribers on YouTube In contrast, London Real, a YouTube channel which has hosted interviews with conspiracy theorists such as David Icke and produced misinformation about COVID-19 health , has nearly 2 million subscribers « There can be an unfortunate disconnect between the less important fact-checking organizations and the part of the electorate that is still open to persuasion over the choice of a president, » says Barrett
YouTube has become a mirror room for disinformation, despite the platform’s efforts to keep harmful content off its site (it has promised to remove videos that have been edited to distort actual events and videos that mislead voters about the voting process Yet shocking lies are framed by credible reports from media outlets such as CNN, Vice, and The New York Times, as well as fact-checkers such as Politifact About a quarter of Americans receive their news on YouTube, according to a recent Pew Research survey
Some platforms have adopted overt partnerships with fact-checkers in an effort to identify and minimize disinformation Politifact is part of Facebook’s efforts to do this, along with a group of other fact-checking organizations However, the problem with fact-checking partnerships like Facebook’s is that the platforms ultimately have the final say on whether the content is tagged as bogus or if it can’t reach more people. of people Reports reveal that Facebook occasionally saved some posts from the disinformation category if the company felt it would bother some of its conservative users, undermining the efforts of fact-checkers such as Politifact Regarding the election, the company struggled to follow its own disinformation policies and keep ads that spread mail-order security falsehoods out of its platform.
“I’ll say this: fact checkers alone can’t solve the problem,” says Holan “Everyone has a role to play here, from tech companies to the people themselves who share misinformation I think that the problem of foreign interference needs to be looked at by the government We need so many different solutions to deal with the situation «
Holan says it’s his organization’s role to lay out the facts, but it’s up to the American public to educate themselves on how to spot disinformation. His organization has many tutorials that advise readers to be wary of articles that elicit an emotional reaction and encourage them to seek out verified sources of information She also believes that the media can play a role, especially in situations like debates, by providing verified information in real time when political candidates try to stretch the truth.
Barrett agrees He thinks the media could support more fact-checking efforts He points out that while traditional news outlets carry out their own fact-checking, it would be wise to pay regular attention to the work of independent fact-checkers.
« It would be a good idea for mainstream media organizations to report more systematically on the work of fact-checking organizations, especially when some candidates acquire a reputation for spreading lies and disinformation, » says he
Misinformation has always been a close part of the election race Now technology has amplified its detrimental effects With the sitting president doing all he can to undermine the legitimacy of the upcoming election through lies and disinformation, the stakes have never been higher
Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company She covers the intersection of healthcare and technology
Debate, fact-check, Donald Trump, media, Joe Biden, Commission on Presidential Debates
Global news – US – Why checking Trump’s lies won’t save our democracy
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