False information spreads quickly, and not just in a pandemic or ahead of an election. In Georgia, DW Akademie trained young people in fact-checking.
Ana Chikovani is a cheerful ambitious law student who is especially interested in human rights and is aiming to become a judge. Together with 19 other young men and women, she recently took part in MythLab, a course offered by DW Akademie and the Media Development Foundation (MDF) in Georgia. Over six weekends, she learned how media function in a democratic society and how to check if digital content – texts, images and video – is valid.
"Verification can even save lives in this pandemic because false reports are focusing on supposed methods for preventing COVID-19," Chikovani said. For example, she exposed as disinformation a report about alleged coronavirus immunity through "Georgian blood". When she checked the sources she found that an alleged US study had been fabricated. Fact-checking also proved to be a major undertaking ahead of parliamentary elections held in October. "If voters are to make informed decisions," she stressed, "it's crucial to expose lies made by rival political camps."
Tool for a critical civil society
As of this year, students of the MythLab have also been able to rely on DW's verification platform Truly Media, a tool co-developed by DW for effectively verifying digital content such as online news. Truly Media is a semi-automated and collaborative tool that works in real time. "I used Truly Media to check the activities of an anti-democratic, pro-Russian Facebook page," said Marian Dangadze, another MythLab participant. "I cross-checked the information there and could show that the site works together with other pro-Russian platforms," she said.
Fact-checks from the MythLab are published on the MDF website mythdetector.ge and are available in Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani and English to reach as many people as possible. MDF has received wide attention as a pioneer in Georgia in the field of verification and is well-known nationwide, for example, through regular TV appearances. In order to give more people access to verified information, DW has this year made the Truly Media platform available at no charge to seven regional Georgian online media.
Trustworthy media sources are vital for this young democracy and people like Ana Chikovani and Mariam Dangadze are making an important contribution to a critical civil society with their fact checks.