The times claim a fun 'fake news' tradition...
On lit les fausses nouvelles avec ma tante...
A key part of spotting fake news is getting out of your own information 'bubble' . . .
A global scourge . . .
The Fact Project is an organization founded on four principles:
1. Facts exist.
2. Facts are discernible from opinion.
3. Facts are superior to opinion as a foundation of public policy and public debate.
4. Reasonable people can disagree on the best response to facts but a “post-fact” world threatens the fundamental institutions and values of Canadian society.
These may have been non-controversial positions in the past, but in a rapidly changing technological and economic environment, the fake news phenomenon poses a real threat to Canadian democracy. We at the Fact Project are looking to develop media literacy programming, public education campaigns and accountability journalism, and we're looking for passionate, talented volunteers who care as much as we do.
This event will feature a short presentation, followed by an opportunity for all to share ideas and get involved.
If you haven't already, please review The Fact Project terms of reference (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php…) and get in touch with your ideas and comments.
We're hoping to hold public meetings in the next month or so in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and (hopefully) Vancouver to discuss ideas and come up with a plan. Your ideas will help that happen....
This post is going to take you more than three minutes to read, but I appreciate your time and your willingness to share the ideas below with other...s.
Two things will become obvious when you read the initial “Terms of Reference” for The Fact Project below:
1) It’s essentially a set of principles and not a detailed project plan;
2) There is a long list of potential activities – including but not exclusively media literacy activities -- which have not yet been prioritized.
This was not an accident. At the end of the day, if this initiative is going to get off the ground, we will need to coalesce around mutual priorities. I have some ideas, but if you’re going to be motivated to give up your time and money, you need to buy in as well.
So, please read and tell me what you think. What do you think are the most important first program steps? What would you like to do?
As it says at the end of the doc, the plan will be to meet with people face to face in the new year (I’m thinking Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and – if there’s interest – Vancouver) and move forward with our first suite of activities in the spring.
THE FACT PROJECT -- AN INTRODUCTION
Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year.
Defined… as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year.
The Guardian, November 15, 2016
The new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true… the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation…Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree…(to)…a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”
Barack Obama in the New Yorker, November 28, 2016
“One thing that’s been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts. They’re not really facts ... There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”
Scottie Nell Hughes on The Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio, November 30, 2016
We are The Fact Project, a group of concerned Canadians of varying professional background and political conviction who believe in four basic principles:
• Facts exist.
• Facts are discernible from opinion.
• Facts are superior to opinion as a foundation of public policy and public debate.
• Reasonable people can disagree on the best response to facts but a “post-fact” world (what some are calling a “post-truth” world) threatens institutions and values which are fundamental to Canadian society including democracy, equality and the rule of law.
Accordingly, we have united to defend and promote these principles through non-partisan public action, education and awareness. We believe our mission is best served by working together to in the following two project areas.
1) Media Literacy Education: The Internet has transformed the way we build our world view. Traditional news media are almost certainly less influential, less commercially viable and less trusted than they have been in our lifetimes.
Citizen media and other non-traditional sources of information are on the rise and our means of receiving “news” has changed forever.
Professional norms of reporting have also been transformed by changing economic and technical realities. The new primary conduit of news delivery (social media) homogenizes sources, excludes contrary voices, levels perceived veracity and, accordingly, demands increased skepticism and verification effort even as the volume of available information increases.
An argument can be made that previous campaigns of media literacy which encouraged skepticism by providing media consumers the skills and knowledge to critique what they saw and read has helped transform many media consumers into cynics who dismiss information which does not adhere to their pre-conceptions.
We, as a group, believe that there is a significant gulf between accepting that there is bias in the media we consume and dismissing underlying facts which contradict our preconceptions.
In this context, we firmly believe that media literacy education with a public policy focus is essential in protecting our organization’s principles. Citizens, particularly young Canadians at/near voting age, need to understand the constructed nature of their media diet (that the information they receive is “built”) and the means and processes used to build it.
Furthermore, they need to be equipped with the tools to understand, evaluate and verify that media diet (to test whether what has been built can hold any logical/rhetorical weight). In the past, these skills have been packaged as either “media literacy” or “digital literacy” but the line between these two ideas is less distinct than ever. Understanding and unraveling editorial bias is steadily becoming a blended process where we are forced to critically evaluate not only the contents of the media we are presented, but also the algorithmic editors in chief who decide what ends up in our searches and new feeds.
This reality requires a modern approach to media literacy and excellent work is being done in this space in Canada and elsewhere. We hope to use our skills, experience and resources, particularly our experiences as journalists and in related media professions, to strengthen and improve this work across Canada.
We feel that the instinct towards verification and "factuality" needs to be promoted as inherently important and responsible. We would love to build the tools and discussions which encourage a societal perception of credulousness and ignorance as being as unacceptable as smoking.
To that end The Fact Project will support:
-- Development/distribution and/or support of development of media/digital literacy campaigns for young Canadians at/near voting age which directly target the “Post-Fact” universe. Where possible in partnerships with current leaders in the field (in Canada and elsewhere);
-- Development of fact checking PSAs – videos? Animation? Memes? -- for distribution via youth-oriented media on and offline/earned and paid – which stress the difference between facts and opinion and the need to verify;
2) Non-partisan review and fact-checking of public discourse. Canadians who support fact-based public policy are faced with what the Poynter Institute has dubbed the “unholy trinity” of “partisan news outlets, social media echo chambers and fact-challenged candidates.” The countervailing trend towards accountability journalism around the globe has been impressive and organizations like factcheck.org, politifact and even the venerable snopes.com are providing a daily diet of verification and transparency.
Unfortunately, Canada’s entries into this ecosystem are relatively new, inexperienced and under-resourced. The accountability journalism ecosystem in Canada clearly requires further strengthening in order that it might improve our national dialogue. Accordingly, we will:
-- Fund, staff and manage a Canadian fact checking organization using trained journalists and/if possible in partnership with current organizations;
-- Develop a national awards program which recognizes policy makers and journalists who promote rational discussion of public affairs and/or (like the Golden Raspberry Awards, the satirical equivalent of the Academy Awards) calls out particularly egregious examples of post-fact discourse;
-- Develop and/or promote of news verification tools – checklists, verification brochures and the like – which allow citizens to better evaluate what they see and read. This effort could be as small adapting existing tools for fact checking for a Canadian audience and making sure they are more adequately distributed to, eventually, building up the sort of expertise which would allow the Fact Project to participate as a subject matter expert in the sort of media verification programs currently being discussed by internet companies or provide independent, non-partisan, publicly accessible auditing services/tools/ratings of media sources both traditional and “new”;
The implementation plan
First draft of statement of intent circulated to key volunteers (complete): Nov. 28, 2016
Initial networking consultations with related organizations (complete): Nov. 28 – Dec. 9
Finalized statement of intent document distributed publicly (complete): Dec. 16
Feedback provided by all interested parties: Jan. 16, 2017
Road-trip and public consultation (focus on priority setting): Jan. 30-Feb 3
Initial formal project plan complete: Feb. 24
Public Launch of The Fact Project: March 10
Happy New Year, friends. Some things to consider as 2017 starts to get into gear, have you:
1) Read the Fact Project terms of reference? https://www.facebook.com/factprojectcanada/… and provided us some feedback?
2) Shared this page (and the idea of supporting fact-based, Canadian public discourse) with friends and family?
3) Offered to volunteer to get The Fact Project initiative off the ground in 2017. Our short-term needs include members of local organizing committees (par...ticularly in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) and journalistic talents for the first drafts of our veracity journalism projects?
Thanks for your enthusiasm and support. Looking forward to working with all of you in 2017!
An essay about The Fact Project and why facts matter: https://keithserry.com/2016/12/15/the-fact-project/