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Independent to launch new channel to debunk fake news

21 Mar 2017  |  Ellen Hammett 
Independent to launch new channel to debunk fake news

As the war between Donald Trump and the 'fake news media' rages on, and the public's mistrust of newsbrands continues to grow, the Independent has decided to launch a section on its website dedicated to identifying fake news.

From next month, 'In Fact' will "overtly call out" unverified and false news stories in an effort to help "people return to brands they really trust".

Speaking at Ad Week on Tuesday, the newsbrand's editor, Christian Broughton, said going digital-only has put the Independent in a "unique position" to lead the charge against fake news - and that it "can do a lot more about it now than we could back then."

"We've got a focused way of confronting this now," Broughton said. "We're going to launch, as of next month, a new channel of the website which will call out fake news very overtly."

Citing a story that the Independent published which called out five things Donald Trump got wrong at his press conference, Broughton said explicitly debunking false claims had proved to be an effective strategy.

"It got massive distribution online and a huge distribution on Facebook," he said.

"When you confront it very vocally...if you call it out and do a debunker in a very passionate way rather than in an encyclopedia-style footnote correction, it gets that big sharing community worked up.

"If you publish a small correction in a slightly backslapping way because you've noticed a little inaccuracy in someone's reporting, it's got the wrong tone to it; people don't want to listen to that stuff."

However, Broughton's comments come in the same week that BuzzFeed's political editor, Jim Waterson, expressed his concerns over the high level of "hyper-partisan" and truth-stretching news from some of the UK's best-known newsbrands - on both the right and the left, including the Independent.

Also speaking at Ad Week, Waterson said: "In the UK, as far as I can tell, we don't really have 'fake news', as in completely made-up stories going viral. What we have instead is a very crowded market of hyper-partisan newspapers whose online operations are already pretty good at doing this type of stuff.

"When we were doing research into fake news in the UK, on the back of our US team, we went into what is being shared, what is going viral and basically found that it was often the [Daily] Express [Daily] Mail or sometimes even the Independent which had an incredibly partisan headline which stretched facts to the absolute limit."

Reviewing the different types of fake news during a debate at Ad Week Europe - a spectrum that spans satire and parody through to entirely fabricated content - Waterson said it was the middle-ground, where false connections are made, that was uncovered repeatedly by BuzzFeed and posed a significant problem for journalistic integrity and reader trust.

The BBC is also set to launch a similar initiative to debunk fake news.

James Montgomery, director, digital development at BBC News, said he hopes it will add "renewed vigour" to what people say.

"We're not trying to edit the Internet...but for our audience's sake, we want to offer some sort of context and explain why it might not be true," Montgomery said.

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13 Dec 2019 

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