In an interview with Sputnik Germany, experienced freelance journalist Paul Schreyer revealed some surprising facts about fact-checking teams.
According to Schreyer's research, the fake news campaign was originally born in the US in a journalist school called the Poynter Institute in Florida. The school had been running a so-called International Fact Checking Network for over a year, consisting of journalists working for such major media outlets like AP or ABC.
"The Poynter Institute's network is indirectly sponsored by the US government via a think tank, but also by the Bill Gates foundation, Google, George Soros and some other foundations. So you see in the background of the campaign against fake news there is a network of very financially strong elites and the government. You should keep in mind that there are not just journalists who are concerned about the reputation of the industry, but also very influential financiers in the background," the journalist told Sputnik Germany.
In particular, Schreyer found out that the German Correctiv team also receives a lot of money from influential supporters.
The journalist also pointed out that the members of the team have not yet worked out certain criteria which they will use to fact-check the information and define false statements.
Although Correctiv consists of professional journalists, who worked for major German media outlets, like Der Stern und Der Spiegel, exactly this can be a problem during their work. In particular, it is not quite clear what kind of approach they will use to independently and unbiasedly check the content of large media groups with whom they have connections with. According to Schreyer, it is very difficult to define what fake news, actually, is.
"David Schraven [Correctiv team member] repeatedly said that they do not want to assess opinions, but rather check factual statements. This sounds quite reasonable, but when you think about it, you realize that you can't separate opinions and factual statements so clearly at all. There can be statement in the middle of the two. For example, "Putin jeopardizes the security of Europe." Is this now an opinion or a factual statement? Can this be checked? What criteria should be used to check it? There you have a grey zone which can very fast fall into the area of the censorship," the journalist said.
The story will then be dispatched to Correctiv and if the team determines the story to be fake, it will be marked as false and users seeing it in their feeds will be warned about its doubted authenticity. It will also be blocked from being promoted in users' feeds.
Commenting on the new initiative, Schreyer stated that it sounds to him, like censorship and added that "the whole fake news topic has turned into an incredibly hysterical debate at the moment."
Facebook representatives, in their turn, stated that by adding additional context to stories deemed fake, it gives people an opportunity to decide for themselves what to believe and what information they share.