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How The Quint Is Tackling Misinformation in India

WebQoof, a fact-checking initiative, is one of The Quint’s fastest growing segments in terms of readership.

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WhatsApp, which is becoming increasingly popular for sharing and discussing news, is one of the main channels for the spread of misinformation in India. Since the service is encrypted and groups are limited to 256 people, it’s nearly impossible to tell where misinformation has originated and how far it’s travelled, making uncovering hoaxes all the more challenging. With its own fact-checking initiative and the help of its readers, The Quint is trying to make a difference.

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About a year ago, The Quint launched its fact-checking initiative, WebQoof. (The name is derived from the Hindi word for idiot, “Bewaqoof”, meaning that you’re an idiot if you believe anything on the web without fact-checking first).

It’s a newsroom-wide effort, with journalists producing informative articles and videos about spotting ‘fake news’ and working closely with regional and local media and a handful of fact-checking sites to debunk hoaxes and false claims.

The Quint’s readers are encouraged to submit for verification of dubious stories they’ve come across on social media. A single such call to action prompted between 100 and 150 submissions.

WebQoof is one of The Quint’s fastest growing segments in terms of readership.

Ritu Kapur, co-founder and CEO of The Quint, said at the World News Media Congress in Portugal:

That’s really where the light at the end of the tunnel is for us, because everything you hear is that people are in their filter bubbles, and that they only want to read stories that confirm their biases.

“But clearly this onslaught of mails that have come to us for verification, and the fact that our fact-checking stories get such high consumption, is very reassuring because it sort of flies in the face of everything we’ve presumed on how people just want to believe fake stories,” Kapur said.

By involving readers in its fact-checking efforts, The Quint has gained access to hundreds of unverified claims on WhatsApp, allowing staffers to fact-check claims that otherwise might have flown under their radar.

“Verified news needs to be as exciting as fake news.”

Via its own WhatsApp channel, The Quint feeds verified stories back onto the platform.

“The challenge was how do we make the fact-checked content accessible, because fake news is simple to consume. It travels very easily, whereas fact-checking and truth is more complicated,” Kapur said.

“So you’ve got to make the verified news as exciting to read as the viral false news. We’ve been working on that, without in any way taking away from the fact-checking.”

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The Quint uses the resource-intensive tactic of dispatching its own journalists to check hoaxes in-person whenever possible, because “nothing works like visual evidence,” Kapur said. She added that this type of content tends to garner “huge traffic”.

(This article, by Simone Flueckiger, was first published on the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers blog.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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