Do you care whether all the facts in a newspaper article are true? If so — what could convince you that they are or are not? A friend? A neutral website? Someone in authority? Anne Applebaum asks in The Washington Post.
If you aren’t really sure, then welcome to the world of fact-checking. In the past several years, as it has become easier to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories on the Internet, politically neutral fact-checking websites have sprung up in response. The Post itself created an early version, the “Fact Checker” column, led by Glenn Kessler, which awards up to four “Pinocchios” for dubious statements made by politicians from both political parties, depending on their level of outrageousness. Others include PolitiFact.com, FullFact.org in Britain, Chequeado in Argentina and StopFake.org in Ukraine.
The question of what is propaganda and what is truth has plagued politics since politics began, notes Applebaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group, citing a number of NED grantees:
But the nature of information in the social media age means it keeps getting easier for politicians, partisans, computerized “bots” and foreign governments to manipulate news, and it keeps getting harder to correct this. Fact-checkers are, for the moment, one of the best solutions. But they work only for people who want them to work, and that number may be shrinking.