FactCheckNI — Northern Ireland’s first ever fact-checking service — was officially launched at the Skainos Centre in Belfast.
The project — funded by the Big Lottery Fund through Building Change Trust — aims to influence public policy in regards to the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, keep politicians right in terms of both their promises and their rhetoric, and also influence the general public by providing access to unbiased facts.
Paul Braithwaite explained:
“At Building Change Trust, we sought to use our resources to help the VCSE sector reassert its ‘civic voice’ function, including enabling the sector to reconnect with citizens and facilitating their engagement in decision making, through experimenting with innovative and creative civic activism tools and approaches.
“Digital fact-checking is one of 29 tools we feel can be potentially applied constructively in Northern Ireland, and we are pleased to support this effort by FactCheckNI.”
Enda Young, Co-Founder of Transformative Connections, explained the need for fact-checking in Northern Ireland:
“We’ve all seen the suspicious photo meme on Facebook, but people don’t realise how this can be used maliciously to provoke violence on our streets.
“FactCheckNI will provide free tools, information and advice, so that anyone can check the claims that are made by politicians and the media.
“What sets us apart from other fact-checking services is our training in local communities, supported by Building Change Trust.”
Allan Leonard, Managing Director of the Northern Ireland Foundation, described his non-profit organisation’s involvement:
“Encouraging more open, participatory and accountable government in Northern Ireland is a key tenet of our work — the Civic Activism Programme was a perfect fit.
“We are enthusiastic about facilitating learning about fact-checking as an innovative method of improving public engagement with politics, and especially its importance in a society in transition from conflict.
“FactCheckNI will promote a culture of factual accountability amongst citizens, with an attitude of critical thinking and active verification.”
Keynote speaker, Alexios Mantzarlis, Director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, provided a global perspective of fact-checking:
“Today there are more than 100 fact-checking projects active in near 40 countries, with a majority outside the USA run not by media establishments but by civil society organisations (CSOs) like the Northern Ireland Foundation.
“What makes fact-checking so appealing is its ability to counter a widespread preoccupation of a lack of objectivity in politics, in the hope that a public discourse grounded in facts will lead to better policies and a healthier polity.”
Concluding the event was Will Moy, Director of Full Fact:
“Full Fact is delighted to be involved in the development of FactCheckNI, particularly as this will complement our coverage in Northern Ireland.
“In public debate too often people don’t feel like they have a better option than either blind faith of blind cynicism — FactCheckNI will help.
“Full Fact began as a three-person operation just over five years ago, now a team of ten, and we look forward to encouraging FactCheckNI with this exciting endeavour.”
FactCheckNI is a project led by the Northern Ireland Foundation, in partnership with Transformative Connections and funded by the Big Lottery Fund through Building Change Trust.
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