Our fact-checking methodology
COVID-19 Facts is not about politics. We stick to scientific and health-related information about COVID-19 so that you can protect yourself and your family and protect others. We also have a pedagogical mandate to demonstrate how misinformation and disinformation is produced and shared. Our articles reflect this philosophy.
We’re committed to clearly explaining how we select information posted on the portal, as well as the process followed to determine whether a news item or information is accurate or not.
COVID-19 Facts has been designed and operates according to international standards for fact-checking from the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). You can consult our principles and values here. Each article written by our team and shared on the portal has followed a rigorous verification process, including a combination of journalistic, scientific and knowledge translation approaches that make the verdict and its explanations accessible to all.
The selection process
Through media monitoring software and systematic and manual research, the portal's news managers follow electronic media (traditional and social), fact-checking sites, scientific sources on COVID-19, and studies on the spread of misinformation to identify the false news or misinformation that are most relevant to you. If news items and information are deemed essential and their publication urgently needed, we will ensure that they are included in a timely manner. We of course consider your questions, concerns and suggestions.
First, we organize news and topics according to basic categories: viruses, disease, pandemic management; we then sort them into sub-categories (e.g., hygiene, precautions, drugs and treatments, and others). We perform this thematic categorization in order to balance the mix of the information offered.
Based on the categories and sub-categories, the people responsible for managing the portal's news send the topics and information to be fact-checked to our fact-checking and writing team.
Our research methods
The writers are responsible, as their title implies, for writing the articles appearing on the COVID-19 Facts portal. They must follow strict editorial guidelines, which follow the ethics of journalism as well as regulations set by the IFCN.
All of our fact-checked articles offer at least three reliable and verified sources. The basic principle for the choice of these sources is to rely on science first and foremost – in other words, to go back to the scientific or technical origin of the fact or information.
Selecting a verdict
At the end of each fact-checked article is a final verdict. There are currently five possible verdicts:
- Accurate (supported by evidence and facts; acceptable margin of error)
- Accurate as a whole (with reservations)
- Unsubstantiated (insufficient data)
- Inaccurate as a whole (with reservations)
- Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)
Verdicts 2, 3 and 4 will include an explanation in the text or summary of the text.
In addition, since our portal is intended to be educational, we will sometimes go further in explaining our verdict.
Writers are responsible for issuing the verdict of the article they pen. When in doubt, the writing team as a whole will confer and reach a verdict.
Each article, including its verdict, is validated by a scientific or medical expert, and by the people responsible for managing the portal’s new production.
This means that each article written and its verdict are subject to numerous checks before their translation and publication.
After an article has been published, we welcome additional evidence and sources that validate or disprove our verdict. When corrections are needed, we will do so in a transparent manner and directly on the portal. The corrected article will include an "errata" section to reflect the correction.
The technology we use
When a claim has been fact-checked and an article published, our platform creates a machine-readable version of the resulting article as rich structured data. This structured data is dynamically built using a combination of modern software best practices and inspired by critical journalistic concepts set forth by industry leaders such as Google, Facebook, Schema.org and the International Fact-Checking Standard (IFCN).
Automatically imposing a high degree of structured information to each of our fact-checked articles allows for computers to efficiently process and "understand" the content.
While there are many possible applications for structured data, it has become a crucial tool in the fight against online misinformation; by leveraging this data, search engines and social media platforms can quickly and automatically prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation.
The COVID-19 Facts portal is powered by FactPress, a Content Management System built around the fact-checking process. (You can learn more about FactPress here.)
Our frames of reference
In addition to following IFCN guidelines and principles and best practices in the field of fact-checking, our methodology fits within an existing strategy already recognized by the international community.
The World Health Organization's strategy
The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a strategy to guide action and communications from high-level stakeholders, organizations and individuals responsible for emergency communication to fight infodemics. This strategy consists of 4 elements:
- Identify, appraise and assess the evidence necessary for the development of recommendations and policies that positively impact the health of individuals and populations.
- Simplify this knowledge into actionable messages that encourage the behavioural changes needed to follow public health measures.
- Amplify these messages by supporting key stakeholders to better understand the concerns and information needs of their audience, and to communicate accurate public health messages in a user-friendly manner.
- Quantify the results of communication efforts; monitoring and surveillance of information and infodemics through social networks leads to a better understanding of the population and the ability to guide the effectiveness of public health measures.
Please refer to the WHO website for more details. ( https://www.who.int/teams/risk-communication/infodemic-management )
The FACTS Framework for Fighting Misinformation and Disinformation
We’ve created a framework to fight misinformation and disinformation. It’s based on best practices for fact-checking and media and information literacy, and we use it at all stages of our fact-checking process. This framework is simple, easy to remember and can help anyone and everyone to fight misinformation. Click here for the FACTS Framework for Fighting Misinformation.