So fake news has become a mainstay of modern society… I think if you ask the developers of all social media platforms, one thing they regret is that their platforms have made it easy to spread falsehoods on a destructively huge scale. Remember when there was an oil shortage in the country because of a WhatsApp message. Well, that’s what happens when communication tools have become widespread and effective.
ZimFact is an “independent, non-partisan Zimbabwean online fact-checking platform.” They are under the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and they try to ensure that the public can receive verified news and accurate information. This is a tall order when one considers that misinformation and propaganda have become the order of the day.
As recently as last week there were rumours that the government would be introducing a diaspora tax in order to generate revenue from non-resident citizens. ZimFact sought to verify this and they rubbished the claim which was reported by The Zimbabwe News Live. Reports such as these provide an unfortunate peek into the level of division within Zimbabwe right now. It seems most people are rejoicing when things go south in order to gloat about voting for a certain politician or not voting for a certain politician… Pathetic.
How does ZimFact work?
ZimFact outlays how they approach their stories on their site. From which stories to check to how they go about this, the information is laid out for all to see:
How we approach our work:
Selection of story or information to fact-check
While ZimFact provides a facility for readers to give suggestions and ideas, under the principle of editorial independence, the editorial team will decide on the story or information to fact-check, basing the selection on topical importance and strong public interest, on whether the information is presented as fact or opinion and on fact-checking all sides of a debate.
Establishing the exact words
In cases of contested claims and statements, we go out of the way to establish the exact words, the context in which they were given and how they were reported.
Asking for evidence
After establishing contradicting facts, we always seek confirmation from the original source. We do our utmost to contact the source of the disputed information to provide evidence for their claims.
Checking archives, and other sources
We check information published or broadcast against information in our own and other archives. We cast our net widely and will record evidence from other sources both supporting and contradicting a given claim.
We cross check and when necessary discuss the same information with established experts. We will strive to avoid anonymous sources in fact-checking.
Minimum sources in fact-checking
We do not use a single source as the basis of fact-checking claims. We use a minimum of two sources, and will strive for more depending with the information in dispute.
Publishing, broadcasting fact-checked report
We produce a fact-checked report by setting out the original claim and the context in which it was delivered, provide evidence and end with a balanced conclusion. All reports are subjected to reviews by researchers and members of the editorial team to cross-check for accuracy before publication or broadcasting.
We publish our reports on our website, for free access by the media and public.
We update and correct any mistakes with full transparency.
Editorial code of conduct
We subscribe to the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe www.vmcz.co.zw code of conduct.
Are they reliable?
The short answer is yes. The stories I saw on their website seem to have some thorough research and the fact that they are funded by foreign entities is also a sign that there isn’t much in the way of interference from locals who may want to misinform the public.
Of course, mistakes can be made but I think ZimFact is a more than reliable tool and because they look at topical and pressing issues it might be worth checking out the next time some ludicrous declarations are spreading on WhatsApp and other social media sites.
In this day and age of citizen journalism, having a tool such as ZimFact and ensuring that people know and trust such tools is very important. Hopefully, they’ll keep up the good work and citizens will turn to them before
informing misinforming the public.