[OPINION] My first fact-checking experience

John David Moncada
[OPINION] My first fact-checking experience
'I used to be the type of Facebook user who would share posts instantly on my Newsfeed if they sounded good to me.... But that's now in the past.'

Even though I had a lot on my plate as a faculty member in a university, I still registered for Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program.

My hugot for registering was my constant encounters with two of my churchmates, who would often drop dubious claims into our group’s chat box.

I would wonder why there were still people like them, who didn’t seem to bother with the truth, and who would just use the excuse “to each his own” and turn a deaf ear whenever I tried to tell them the facts.

I have had a few slips of my own. I used to be the type of Facebook user who would share posts instantly on my Newsfeed if they sounded good to me. I would do this so frequently, the gap between my shared posts would be just a minute or two, and some of my friends would even point this pattern out to me. But that’s now in the past.

In my experience, fact-checking is not an easy job.

While I was waiting for my turn to update our mentors on our progress two weeks in, I struggled over how to tell them that I still hadn’t found anything to fact-check. I ended up telling them jokingly, “Ako yata pinaka-kulelat dito, ma’am,” and shrunk in my seat.

Fact-checking takes time.

I wound up surfing the internet in the wee hours of the morning to really give time for it. But then I finally found a claim on Crowdtangle that was fact-checkable. The claim was in a video, and it was painful to have to sit through the video’s entirety – to listen, to take note, and to research.

The process was like digging a tunnel. It took so long. But I am glad that I went through the process, because it made me more informed and confident. It was tiring, but in the end it was all worth it, knowing that I had corrected a wrong.

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I didn’t expect that the second claim I would fact-check would come from the same person. And when I was writing my second article, I saw hints on that person’s Facebook profile that that they had even moved to a different, more “fact check-proof” platform. It made me ask myself: What does success look like for a fact-checker?

(Admittedly, I had grown paranoid that the person whose claims I fact-checked would go after me or my family online or offline. I could only imagine the dangers that full-time fact-checkers and journalists face because of their jobs.)

I am still part of the chat box that triggered me to take part in Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship. I am glad for this, because from time to time some members would drop dubious claims that I could fact-check. I just had to remind myself that these people who proliferated this fake news were not my enemies, and that I had to befriend them all the more so they could see my point of view and eventually win them over to my side.

I am glad there is space for a novice fact-checker like me in Rappler; that makes me feel grateful. Fact-checking is a noble task. That said, I am motivated to to continue learning the ropes. – Rappler.com

John David Moncada is a volunteer of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program, a 5-week exclusive, hands-on training on detecting, investigating, and verifying online misinformation and disinformation. 

At present, he is a faculty member of the department of Technology Communication Management at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, teaching subjects like Digital Activism and Intercultural Communication.