2019-05-20

BRUSSELS - Factcheck.Vlaanderen is a project that aims to counter online disinformation and polarisation in Flanders (the northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). It is a fact-checking platform where man and machine cooperate to track, check and combat disinformation. The project is a unique collaboration between an AI-start-up, two media partners, two university colleges and a citizen participation company.

Flemish Journalism Fund (FJF) is the innovation incubator of Journalismfund.eu, supported by the Flemish government. In December 2018 FJF awarded innovation grants to 11 projects that innovate and diversify journalism in Flanders. One of these projects, Factcheck.Vlaanderen (Factcheck.Flanders), was launched on 26 April.

Factcheck Vlaanderen

Factcheck.Vlaanderen is a project that aims to counter online disinformation and polarisation in Flanders (the northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). It is a fact-checking platform where man and machine cooperate to track, check and combat disinformation. The project is a unique collaboration between an AI-start-up, two media partners, two university colleges and a citizen participation company.

How does it work? First, an artificial intelligence tool looks for possible sources of online disinformation. This tool is developed by Textgain, a Belgian start-up that develops Natural Language Processing tools. The sources can be news items, trending articles, or polarising tweets. All these possible disinformation sources are grouped at the backend of the platform. The editors can move these articles to ‘TO DO’ or to ‘Skip’. The AI learns from the decisions of the editors to improve the ranking of the overview.

Next to the AI, also citizens can suggest topics to fact-check. This tool is developed by Tree company, a company that specialises in online citizen participation tools.

The editorial team decides which items are interesting to fact-check. The team consists of students of KU Leuven University and Erasmus University College Brussels. They are trained and supervised by VRT NWS, the news service of the public broadcasting of Flanders, and Belga News Agency, Belgium’s main press agency.

Factcheck.Vlaanderen was launched at a crucial moment: exactly one month before 26 May, Belgian election day for the regional, national and European parliaments.

So far about 35 fact-checks have been published. Topics vary. As could be expected there is quite some attention for climate change and conspiracy theories (e.g. about the Notre-Dame de Paris fire). But the platform also features articles about e.g. measles vaccination, the origin of ‘French’ fries, and the efficiency of Belgian soccer striker Romelu Lukaku.

Supported
A grant of € 82,961.60 allotted in 2018.
ID
VJF_2018_021

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