The Independent launches 5-person team dedicated to debunking fake news

The Independent is launching its own team dedicated specifically to debunking fake news in its various guises.

The ESI Media-owned publisher, which went digital-only a year ago when it dropped its print national newspaper, will badge all articles and videos created by the five-person team with the brand “In Fact.”

The goal: to expose the worst abuses of the truth, from political spin to outright lies, across a range of topics and focusing heavily on politics.

The team will begin publishing under the In Fact label in April, and articles will come in the form of standard news pieces, quizzes, fact boxes and long-read explainers. All journalists will be encouraged to feed into the initiative and use tools like Chartbeat and Brandwatch to monitor for stories they select that need further information or need to be debunked entirely.

Readers will be able to view articles debunking any misinformation around important news events via The Independent’s dedicated In Fact Facebook page and Twitter handle @IndyInFact. The articles will also run on its own web and mobile sites. In Fact will not have its own tab on the site but will be clearly signposted for readers to find, according to The Independent’s managing director of digital, Zach Leonard.

“In Fact is as much an ethos as it is a practice,” said Leonard. “The Independent has always gone for more considered pieces, whether features or long-reads, but to deliver that and have a dedicated section for this [debunking] is now key.”

The In Fact moniker will appear against all articles debunking false information.

Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent, said fake news is propagating ignorance by conning and manipulating voters and added that the publisher wants to “confront the phenomenon head on.”

Readers will be encouraged to get involved via the publisher’s comment sections on the main site and social media pages. “We’re calling on our readers and social media followers to help us on this one and flag any abuses of the truth they see — we’ll investigate as many of them as we can,” added Broughton.

The Independent will focus on ongoing challenges in Syria, and Brexit-related stories like the triggering of Article 50, along with anything Trump-related, according to Leonard.

The Independent, which has 100 editorial employees around the world (80 of them based in the U.K.), has spent the last year growing its American audience. It now has seven — and soon to be 10 — people in New York, two in Washington, and it is hiring a San Francisco correspondent. Several of the editorial team in the New York office will be assigned to the In Fact team, though it hasn’t yet determined the exact number.

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