VERA Files, a media nonprofit has been using CrowdTangle for over two years now to probe Philippine issues and fact-check false and misleading claims. Celine Samson, a reporter at VERA Files, shares how the team has been using CrowdTangle in their fact-checking work, and which features have been particularly useful.
Describe your daily workflow for fact-checking.
For our social media verification team, we track and debunk false and misleading claims online on a nearly daily basis so it’s important to have eyes on a lot of places on the Web.
Every morning, apart from checking messages on our organization’s Facebook page for fact-checking requests, we look through the Lists we have built on CrowdTangle of Pages and Groups that have a history of publishing mis- and disinformation. We also get Daily Digests via email that shows us the top Overperforming posts from those Lists.
What are the core features you use in CrowdTangle?
For monitoring, we really utilize Lists and calibrate the settings to show posts that are Overperforming or are getting the highest Total Interactions from different time frames. We’ve also recently been using Search more often, and we also use the CrowdTangle Chrome Extension to see the potential reach of the mis- and disinformation.
How do you use CrowdTangle in your fact-checking work?
Our team has been using CrowdTangle Search to find replications of the same claim around Facebook, helping establish its virality.
For example, through the Search feature, we found that a misleading Facebook status update comparing COVID-19 cases in the Philippines with Italy was published and shared by at least 96 Pages! It was the same way we found several Pages publishing identical status updates about Canada becoming “COVID-free.”
For our fact check on a claim that a newborn in "northern Philippines" suddenly spoke and said hard-boiled eggs are a cure for COVID-19, the tool helped us see variations of the posts claiming the event happened in central Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Can you walk us through how you find where a claim has been posted?
First, I choose an element from a post that is searchable through CrowdTangle’s Search feature, such as a keyword, or a mix of keywords.
Second, I set the Search options depending on what I want to find. For example, if I want to find possible replications of a post, I set the results for both Facebook Pages and Groups. I can even limit it to unverified pages only, by setting the Verified Status to “Not Verified,” if I wanted to filter out posts from legitimate organizations.
From there, I look for exact or similar copies of the original post and sort them based on Total Interactions or even by date of publication.
When I’m dealing with disinformation involving photos, Meme Search also becomes very handy because it turns up results of images bearing the text I’m looking for.
For fact-checkers that are new to CrowdTangle what are your top three tips for them?
Number one is maximize your use of Lists. Set up your own or import a List made by the CrowdTangle team, and try playing around with the calibrations until you find a setting that works for you.
Next is to try using Search and see how it can help with your monitoring and reporting on misinformation.
Three is, if you can, try to catch a CrowdTangling webinar. We made more use of CrowdTangle Search after a webinar last April!
VERA Files is a member of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program. Along with other IFCN-certified fact-checkers around the world, they work independently to monitor, review and rate the accuracy of content on our platform.