Our Fact-Check Process
Our Standard Process
DUBAWA adheres to a process of scrupulous and diligent selection, research, writing, and editing for its fact-checking exercise. To ensure consistency across fact checks, while refraining from limiting individual creativity, we have developed a standard methodology.
STEP 1: Choose the claim(s)
First, our editorial experts examine suggestions for fact-checking based on reader/citizen suggestions or the choices by team members or even from our Board.
For the general public, you can send a claim that you’re unsure of, about a wide range of issues, to our email account: [email protected], tweet or send a direct message: @dubawaNG, @dubawaGH, send a message on Facebook: @dubawa or send a message to our Whatsapp number: 08069352412. Please provide us with as much information as possible about the claim you want to be checked, the person or organisation who made it, and where you saw, read or heard the claim being made. If you can, include links. Suggestions with this information are far more likely to end up as fact checks.
Also important is that the decision to fact-check a particular claim depends on the quality of the claim. Whenever we get claims, we check to see if the statement is actually checkable, that is, are there facts sufficient enough to support or contest the claim? We’d try to ask the following questions as well: Is the topic significant enough to influence public opinions? Was the statement made by a public figure [a person with large followership]? Would a typical person hear or read the statement and wonder: is that true? And does the claim show non-partisanship of the platform? This is to ensure fairness so that it does not seem like we are supporting a particular group or ideology.
As a result, we do not fact-check opinions or predictions as a principle. These are terribly hard to prove [or disprove] and fact-check is really about examining ‘assertions’ that attribute to facts with the hope that the truth is revealed.
STEP 2: Assign to a team of independent researchers
Once the quality of the claim has been ascertained, it is assigned to a person (called “researcher”) with the right expertise to research and write it up. The researcher works with other subject-specific experts to develop a well-structured fact check.
STEP 3: Research the claim
Having assigned the claim, our researcher contacts the speaker or their office. We make it necessary to communicate with the speaker – via email, text, call or even visits. Once the claim has been confirmed, we embark on comprehensive research with pre-eminence given to original and reliable sources. Our sourcing policy is keenly guided by a five-layered evaluation mechanism that privileges:
- Named Sources as against unnamed sources
- Authoritative as against random sources
- Independent as against self-interested sources
- Verifiable as against assertive sources
- Multiple as against single sources
Our researchers ask the following questions when interrogating data: is this source/evidence the closest to the original? When was it gathered? Was this survey representative or particular? What is the interest of this organization releasing the report? Can I quote this source? Is this evidence relevant to this fact-check or am I just writing it because I need to include multiple sources? Even though every opinion supports this claim, is there that one document that may refute it and why? What’s the expertise of the source and is it transparent/reliable? How representative is the respondent? Was it diverse enough? Were the reports presented truthfully?
In essence, we do our due diligence!
STEP 4: Write the report
Armed with sufficient information, the fact-check is written. Context, clarity and transparency are ensured in our writing process. The fact-check usually answers the following questions: where and when was it said? To whom? Why is this particular statement being fact-checked? What resources, documents, spreadsheets and interviews were used in compiling the fact-check?
STEP 5: Edit with scepticism
This is a two-way stage, where the assistant editor “fact-checks” the fact-check. Afterwards, the fact-check will be sent to the editor for final review using standardized questions for each fact-check, as well as general knowledge of fact-checking principles.
STEP 6: Publish
The fact-check is published and distributed on the dubawa.org platform and on social media. Upon publication, readers can provide feedback via [email protected], our social media handles and in the comments section.
If any fresh evidence comes after publication that significantly changes that story, we will promptly clarify, correct or update the story. In the spirit of transparency, explanations will be offered on what warranted the change, why it was made, and when it was made.
Our research, writing and editing processes are a meticulous passage through a conveyor belt of vetting processes of the claims. This is to guarantee a rigorous verification exercise based on strong evidential support for, or refutation of, the basis of a claim. The end process of the preparation for publication is a mandatory standards review, where the edited work goes through a final check to ensure that it satisfies all the internal protocols of determining truthfulness.
Our Rating System
Over time, we have changed our ratings to better reflect the realities of fact-checking. Currently, most of our fact-checks will be tagged:
- TRUE – A fact-check is deemed true when all elements of such a claim pertain to factual information. It is also used contextually and verifiable at the time of assertion.
- FALSE – A fact-check is deemed false when all elements of such a claim do not pertain to factual information at the time of assertion. In essence, imposter, manipulated and fabricated content will be considered false.
- MOSTLY TRUE – A fact-check is deemed mostly true when some elements of such a claim pertain to factual information; used contextually and verifiable at the time of assertion. Usually, this rating will be assigned to fact-checks with three or more claims.
- MOSTLY FALSE – A fact-check is deemed mostly false when some elements of such a claim do not pertain to factual information at the time of assertion, while an element may be true. Usually, this rating will be assigned to fact-checks with three or more claims.
- MISLEADING – A fact-check is deemed misleading when elements of a claim are too complex to be termed true or false. This could mean two things:
- MORE CONTEXT NEEDED/ WRONG CONTEXT – when the claim(s) oversimplifies complex issues. On a surface level, these may seem correct but they are either used out-of-context or depict an unintended meaning
- INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE – when the claim(s) is unverifiable; usually pertaining to urban myths or unquantifiable data.
- ANALYSIS – These refer to unrated claims that are vague or not well-defined. They are not ordinarily considered fact-checks but require in-depth discussion on the veracity of the claim.
Because of our partnership with Facebook (read more here), we sometimes rate certain claims specifically obtained from Facebook in accordance with its rating system. These are not in conflict with the aforementioned ratings, rather are terms that at this point, describe the form of misinformation in circulation on that platform.
- False: The primary claim(s) of the content is/are factually inaccurate. This generally corresponds to “false” or “mostly false” ratings on fact-checkers’ sites.
- Partly False: The claim(s) of the content is a mix of accurate and inaccurate, or the primary claim is misleading or incomplete.
- True: The primary claim(s) of the content is/are factually accurate. This generally corresponds to “true” or “mostly true” ratings on fact-checkers’ sites.
- False headline: The primary claim(s) of the article body content is/are true, but the primary claim within the headline is factually inaccurate.
- Not eligible: The content contains a claim that is not verifiable, was true at the time of writing, or from a website or Page with the primary purpose of expressing the opinion or agenda of a political figure.
- Satire: The content is posted by a Page or domain that is a known satire publication, or a reasonable person would understand the content to be irony or humour with a social message. It still may benefit from additional context.
- Opinion: The content advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the interpretation of facts and data, and tells the public what the author or contributor thinks about an event or issue. Opinion pieces may include reported facts or quotes, but emphasise the author’s own thoughts, personal preferences and conclusions. This may include editorials, endorsements or content labelled “opinion” in the headline, authored by an identified opinion columnist or shared from a website or Page with the main purpose of expressing the opinions or agendas of public figures, think tanks, NGOs and businesses.
- Prank generator: Websites that allow users to create their own “prank” news stories to share on social media sites.
- Not rated: This is the default state before fact-checkers have fact-checked content or if the URL is broken. Leaving it in this state (or returning to this rating from another rating) means that we should take no action based on your rating.
Our Categories Explained
What are Our Health Checks?
Our health fact-checks do not categorically come in the form of regular fact-checks. Often times, our scope is limited to debunking myths and beliefs, with the necessary incorporation of health education. As a guide, we do not engage in health promotion because fact-checking involves uncovering new information, except in cases where debunking viral myths necessitates amplification of already existing information.
Usually, our health-checks would debunk or validate viral claims about:
- The human anatomy
- Drugs, treatments or medical procedures
- Dietary recommendations
- Women and men’s health
- Children’s health; and
- The community/environment
How Do We Source For Claims?
We pay attention to published health misinformation in news stories and press releases on mainstream media platforms and viral information circulating on WhatsApp, Facebook, or other internet sources. We also try to fact-check information not necessarily mainstream but with great potential to become so, or has been misinformation but is now seen as regular due to behaviour and practice.
A very important part of our work is interpreting and analysing health policy documents and survey/study reports; pointing out clear gaps in those documents and presenting accurate information for our readers.
What are Our Economy Checks?
Under the economic scope of our fact-checks, our focus is to put the right statistics out there. Claims that have an effect on how the public understands Nigeria’s economic policies are x-rayed under this section. Our checks under this purview range from, but are not limited to, budgetary allocations and its implication to government spending and revenues, from tax rate to VAT earnings, from foreign exchange to foreign investment earnings, from employment rate to poverty rate.
Ultimately, the focus here is to put the economic concepts in the right perspective and ensure that the public is well informed about the implication of any statistics brandished to them in the name of economic growth or decline.
How Do We Source For Claims?
We put our nose on the ground to sniff every news that contains economic-related elements. Releases from private and public stakeholders, business adverts, surveys, economic policy documents, news stories, to mention a few are among the sources we tend to explore to weed out misinformation — and amplify accurate information too — on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or other internet sources.
What are Our Political Checks?
Politicians make all kinds of statements to their audience. Our fact-check is a regular type that focuses on improving accountability as well as contributing to public debates on misleading topics that could influence their voting choices. This we do, by debunking the exaggeration and lies that are politically related using necessary data and technology.
Our desk also concentrates on a handful of key topics or public figures and report on them diligently. All in all, we serve as an accountability platform holding ruling and opposing authorities accountable at all time.
How Do We Source For Claims?
Fake news has caused a lot of danger in recent years and ordinary people are increasingly sceptical of what they read online and hear from others. For us, we pay attention to everyday news reports, the statements of influential people on social media, and local blogs used by politicians as propaganda platforms.
What are Spoofs?
The Dictionary’s definition of spoof is “a light humorous parody” or a “hoax” (a hoax means to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous). To us, spoofs are myths, rumours, memes, folklores or any claim that seems ridiculous but people believe anyway. They could appear in the form of texts, social media posts, images, memes or videos. Sometimes, we even fact-check age-long grandmother tales that we think could have harmful effects on society.
How Do We Source For Spoofs?
For now, WhatsApp seems to be the breeding ground for all sorts of claims and as expected, our greatest source of spoofs. Facebook seems to be bracing itself to take the place of Whatsapp, but thankfully, with our partnership with Facebook, we can more easily have access to the rumours circulating on the platform and in turn share with a larger audience.
Also, we accept claims from our readers sent to our Twitter account @dubawaNG or our email account: [email protected], or our whatsapp number: 08069352412, or our Facebook page: @dubawaNG. We would ensure to respond to your claims.
How Can You Help?
For starters, if you are not sure, don’t share! Our next request is that you send a claim you’re unsure of, about a wide range of issues, to our Twitter account @dubawaNG or our email account: [email protected], or our whatsapp number: 08069352412. We would ensure to respond to your claims.
For more on how we choose what claims to fact-check, see this page on our website.