As the coronavirus spread across the globe, misinformation about the virus began to infect social media. Hoaxes and false information went viral, resulting in half of Americans saying they found it difficult to determine what is true and false about the outbreak, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
Although there are many news organizations focused on fact checking, the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network (TFCN) stands out both for the audience it serves and its mission of mixing teaching digital media literacy skills with fact-checking using social media storytelling.
TFCN’s dozens of fact-checkers aged 13-18 from across the country scoured their own social media feeds for potentially false or misleading claims related to the coronavirus, including Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok. And because their social media algorithms have learned similar to their peers, they are more likely to see posts in their feed that someone else may not, allowing them to fact-check claims that might not have been seen by other fact-checking networks.
Claims are then researched, written, filmed and produced by the TFCN, and published on a variety of platforms, from Instagram to TikTok and text-based on Poynter.org. It was important whenever possible for the fact-checks to be posted on the same platforms where the viral claims originated.
A majority of the fact-checks are produced using the Instagram story feature, allowing the TFCN to virtually walk viewers through every step of how they fact-checked the claim while teaching fact-checking tools like reverse image or video search and lateral reading. By presenting fact-checks on social media in a way that’s engaging and interactive, we are determined to show that debunking posts on your timelines does not need to be difficult.
As of June 1, the TFCN debunked more than 70 coronavirus-related claims. MediaWise became part of the International Fact-Checking Network’s Coronavirus Facts Alliance, which collectively published more than 5,000 fact-checks related to the coronavirus, including those of the TFCN. In addition, MediaWise was also named a signatory of the IFCN, becoming the only organization in the IFCN that primarily publishes fact-checks for and by teenagers.