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Fact-checking the French election: lessons from CrossCheck, a collaborative effort to combat misinformation

November 18th, 2017

Nine months ago, 37 newsrooms worked together to combat misinformation in the run-up to the French Presidential election. Organized by First Draft, and supported by the Google News Lab, CrossCheck launched a virtual newsroom, where fact-checkers collaborated to verify disputed online content and share fact-checked information back to the public.


The initiative was a part of the News Lab’s broader effort to help journalists curb the spread of misinformation during important cultural and political moments. With a recent study finding that nearly 25% of all news stories about the French Presidential election shared on social media were fake, it was important for French newsrooms to work closely together to combat misinformation in a timely fashion. 


Yesterday at our office in Paris, alongside many of the newsrooms who took part in the initiative, we released a report on the project produced by academics from the University of Toulouse and Grenoble Alpes University. The report explored the impact the project had on the newsrooms and journalists involved, and the general public.

  A few themes emerged from the report:

  • Accuracy in reporting rises above competition. While news organizations operate in a highly competitive landscape, there was broad agreement that “debunking work should not be competitive” and should be “considered a public service." That spirit was echoed by the willingness of 100 journalists to work together and share information for ten weeks leading up to Election Day. Many of the journalists talked about the sense of pride they felt doing this work together. As one journalist put it, “debunking fake news is not a scoop.”    
  • The initiative helped spread best practices around verification for journalists. Journalists interviewed for the report discussed the value of the news skills the picked up around fact-checking, image verification, and video authentication—and the lasting impact that would have on their work. One journalist noted, “I strengthened my reflexes, I progressed in my profession, in fact-checking, and gained efficiency and speed working with user generated content.” 
  • Efforts to ensure accuracy in reporting are important for news consumers. The project resonated with many news consumers who saw the effort as independent, impartial and credible (reinforced by the number of news organizations that participated).  By the end of the election, the CrossCheck blog hit nearly 600,000 page views, had roughly 5K followers on Twitter 180K followers on Facebook (where its videos amassed 1.2M views). As one news reader noted, ““many people around me were convinced that a particular piece of misinformation was true before I demonstrated the opposite to them,” said one person. “This changed how they voted.”

You can learn more about the News Lab’s efforts to work with the news industry to increase trust and fight misinformation here.