Liesl Pretorius Africa Check’s Info Finder has won an innovation grant! Here’s what we plan to do with it

How do you fight the misinformation octopus? One tentacle at a time.

Making the keynote speech at the 2019 Global Fact-Checking Summit in Cape Town, Africa Check founder Peter Cunliffe-Jones likened fighting misinformation to battling an octopus.

This, he said, is because misinformation is a problem with multiple tentacles.

“[It] is not one problem. It is many. It’s the problem of: false information; a problem of lack of access to, and trust in, reliable information; and a problem of [how] we understand our world.”

While going about our work, journalists, researchers, policy makers and members of civil society have told us that accessing data they can trust, is a considerable headache.

It certainly is a pain point for fact-checkers in Africa, as they regularly highlight in our interactions.  

To try to relieve this, in 2016 we launched our Info Finder tool, which is a selection of facts and sources from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Africa in general. It covers 14 key topics, ranging from health and education to elections and governance.

And for several months now, the team at Africa Check has been quietly chipping away to improve Info Finder.

In March 2019, we launched a new version of the tool, which contains more than 200 facts in question-and-answer format. In June, Africa Check appointed a dedicated editor for the tool. 

In August, we added a #YouAsked category, where we answer questions from readers. And in September, we launched the French version, Infothèque, which focuses on facts and sources from Senegal.

Now, we are thrilled to announce that Info Finder is one of only seven global winners of the Fact-Checking Innovation Initiative – a new programme of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute and the Facebook Journalism Project.

The other winners, selected from more than 90 applications, are from India, Italy, Peru, Serbia and Turkey. (Note: Read more about them at this link.)

Info Finder has a small but engaged audience. This is evident from the more than 250 user questions we’ve received in a year. We believe this grant of nearly US$50,000 will help us to achieve scale and increase its usefulness and impact.

How will we do this? By expanding Info Finder in two ways.

1:  Make it a one-stop repository of African facts

To date, the bulk of the content in Info Finder has come from Africa Check’s own work. 

In the next eight months, we will collaborate with fact-checking organisations ZimFact from Zimbabwe, GhanaFact from Ghana and DUBAWA in Nigeria to start building Info Finder into a repository of facts from African fact-checkers’ work.

Our goal is to improve evidence-based understanding and raise the quality of public debate by making reliable information available in one place and in an accessible Q&A format.

2: Develop a helpdesk for journalists

We will also pilot an online and WhatsApp-based helpdesk for journalists in eight newsrooms in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

We want to help journalists find and use reliable information. This, we believe, will benefit a broad audience of media consumers.

Keep an eye out for updates as we continue to battle the octopus in the next eight months.

Do you want to be part of this journey? You can get involved by:

  • Suggesting a question you think we should answer. You can do this on Info Finder, by email (info@africacheck.org) or on Twitter (tweet us @AfricaCheck using the hashtag #InfoFinder).
  • Getting in touch if you work in a newsroom in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria or Senegal that is interested in our helpdesk. Email liesl@africacheck.org.

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