Members of Full Fact, a London-based organization that provides fact-checking services, on Thursday shared their experience debunking disinformation with media workers and fact-checking communities from Taiwan.
At a workshop in Taipei attended by about 40 journalists and NGO workers specializing in fact-checking, Full Fact's training manager Joseph O'Leary and senior product manager Kate Wilkinson talked about the strategies and tools they have used to check and correct false statements by public officials and manipulated content circulated on the internet.
The workshop was co-organized by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a public body sponsored by the British Foreign Office and the Central News Agency.
Speaking about conspiracy supporters, O'Leary said it is important to challenge them to prevent them from attracting a bigger audience.
When doing so, he went on, it is important to show "empathy" for conspiracy supporters and avoid ridiculing them. He suggested encouraging those people to use critical thinking and using common sources to debunk their theories.
To address false information about COVID-19 vaccines doing harm to an unborn child in a pregnant woman, O'Leary said Full Fact worked with a charity dedicated to providing guidance and support to pregnant women in 2021 to provide accurate information on the topic.
It was "a really effective partnership," he said, adding that information shared by the charity could be more easily accepted by the pregnant women who received its support.
At the same time, he urged public figures and information institutions to preempt conspiracy theories by filling information gaps.
A lot of conspiracies about the origin of COVID-19 were able to spread at the start of the pandemic because there was no agreed upon explanation of where it came from, he added.
As to false claims made in op-eds, O'Leary said newspapers or other outlets should be "responsible for the consequences of [their] output."
Those claims can still be quoted and used by other individuals and groups as with any other form of misinformation, he said, underlining the need to correct them as with regular reports.
With the presidential election in Taiwan slated for next January, O'Leary encouraged members of the media and those in fact-checking communities to work together to address disinformation that is expected to "grow by an order of magnitude" in the run-up to election day.
That is why, according to Sue Inglish, vice chair of WFD's board of governors, the workshop was held with the goal of "improv[ing] the resilience of media coverage" in Taiwan.
"If the Westminster Foundation for Democracy could do one thing in this year, in my view, it would be to encourage all of you to develop your connections with each other," said Inglish, who was formerly head of political programs for BBC News.
She described the WFD's work in Taiwan as challenging and yet exciting, as the organisation has focused its projects on strengthening and building democracy in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and South America since its foundation in 1992.
Headquartered in London, the WFD has established its presence in Taiwan since November 2021.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel