Fact-checking fact sheets: Myth-busting and infotainment | Fact-checking | DW | 01.10.2020
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Fact-checking fact sheets: Myth-busting and infotainment

The infotainment and myth-busting approach looks for more trivial cases of mis- and disinformation and exposes them to ridicule in a bid to gain a wider audience and make fact-checking more attractive.

What is the myth-busting or infotainment approach?

The myth-busting approach aims to make fact-checking entertaining and looks for more trivial cases of viral rumors and fake news. It uses crowdsourcing to find ridiculous or outrageous examples of misinformation/disinformation and then provides explanations. This method uses entertainment as an entry point to get people to examine mis- and disinformation and to more closely consider the sources of their information and news.      

What kinds of misinformation does this approach most effectively address?

The infotainment approach looks for more trivial cases of mis- and disinformation, such as false reports of celebrity deaths, home remedies, and urban legends. Myth-busting is also often used to counteract false health advice, misreported science news and invented social panics.

What are the advantages of this approach?

The main advantage of this approach is that it can hook a larger audience through the novelty and entertainment value of its topics. This method can result in the ability to reach a broader audience, including those who may not have given any thought to fact-checking in the past. 

What are some of the challenges for this approach?

This approach requires an active community for the crowdsourcing of fake news and rumors. Since this approach is not professionalized, it is essential to have participation by readers from a broader community to supply enough material. There is also the danger that such an approach can amplify false claims or accidentally move from the trivial to the deathly serious, as in the case of medical information.

How does it compare to other approaches?

In contrast to journalist- and expert-oriented approaches, it is less rigorous or capable of dealing with serious social problems and medical issues. The infotainment approach is not appropriate for covering major political events, anything requiring expert knowledge, or in combating disinformation campaigns.

What are some examples of best practice?

What’s Crap on WhatsApp (South Africa) – won the 2019 Poynter Institute’s #FactForward Innovation Fund

Snopes – started as a website debunking hoaxes and urban legends, but has in recent years branched out into political and economic topics

Boomlive (India) – debunking an online medical “test” for Alzheimer’s disease

Nuts and Bolts:

Costs:              very low for amateur groups, high for organizations interested in professionalizing;

Funding:          self-funded, grants from media organizations and NGOs;

Topics:            hoaxes, celebrity news, medical advice, urban legends, social panics.


Related resources:     FactCheck.org factchecks snopes.com

                                   A Poynter Institute list of games to teach kids (and adults!) fact-checking