Big Issue readers may well have been relieved to hear that homelessness had halved since 2008, as was claimed on December 5 by Sajid Javid on Sky News. Sadly, this was false. Homelessness has been rising since 2009. This is just one of many misleading claims made by politicians during the election campaign. Trust is at an all-time low. Examining media comments, party manifestos and viral social media posts, independent fact-checking charity Full Fact is the front line of fighting bad information. They also push for corrections where necessary, and work with government departments and research institutions to improve the quality and communication of information at source. To keep up with the scale of the problem, they’re building automated fact-checking tools to be used in newsrooms and by fact-checkers all over the world.
At the end of last year, the UK general election campaign was beset with disinformation and media manipulation. From the Conservative Party press office posing as a fact-checkers on Twitter to the Liberal Democrats’ campaign literature masquerading as local newspapers, parties sought to present themselves as unbiased sources. On social media, fake accounts, false polling numbers and misleading videos spread like wildfire. Throughout the campaign, pioneering global non-profit First Draft provided a vital (real) fact-checking service, investigating and then calling out misleading and suspicious claims. Looking ahead, they are working to inoculate us against fake news, and therefore to address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age. Through their global CrossCheck network, they apply monitoring, newsgathering and verification techniques to tackle disinformation. They equip journalists and social media users with better digital literacy skills, providing free online training to help us avoid unknowingly spreading false information.