Rachel Khan, head of the UP Journalism Department, explains the features of the Tsek.ph website.

Media groups, academe join forces in election fact-checking initiative

Eleven news organizations and three universities formed a pioneering consortium that would combat fake news expected to proliferate during the campaign for the May 2019 elections, which started Feb. 12.

Launched Monday, Tsek.ph is an online collaborative fact-checking initiative that includes ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs, Baguio Midland Courier, Interaksyon, Mindanews, the Philippine Star, Philstar.com, Probe Productions, CLTV 36, Rappler, VERA Files, and DZUP. Its academic partners are the University of the Philippines (UP), the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University.

Representatives of the project's media and academic partners and members of the technical working group pose for a photo at the launch of Tsek.ph on Feb. 11.

Tsek.ph is also supported by Meedan, the Facebook Journalism Project and the Macaranas Journalism Grant.

Led by UP, the consortium in a statement said it hopes to “prevent a repeat of the country’s experience in the 2016 elections” where disinformation was used to “influence voters’ choices, deceive the public and undermine rational debates,” according to a press release.

UP President Danilo Concepcion leads the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Tsek.ph collaborative fact-checking initiative.

“We hope that it’s like a one-stop shop for the public to find out the truth of the claims made by politicians in this upcoming elections,” said Rachel Khan, head of the UP Journalism Department.

“We are focusing only on election-related news to help the public nga make good decisions come May,” she added.

The first of its kind in the country, Tsek.ph will verify election-related information such as platforms and campaign promises of candidates; statements and remarks made by candidates, personalities, government agencies, and other entities; and posts on social media, blogs and other platforms.

These claims will be rated by degree of their veracity, falsity and completeness (Accurate, False, Misleading, No Basis and Needs Context).

Aside from Tsek.ph’s current collaborators, Khan said they are still approaching other media groups to join the initiative since some have expressed interest but have yet to fully commit.

“We’re hoping for a phase 2,” she said. “We do expect to expand this (Tsek.ph) when they see it up and running. We think the others who are a little wary at this point will see that it’s a partnership that works.”

VERA Files president Ellen Tordesillas, ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs head Maria Regina "Ging" Reyes, and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa sign the Tsek.ph MOU.

Should the partnership indeed work, Khan said they are not closed to the possibility of expanding the project post-elections.

“We’re patterning it after CekFakta of Indonesia which also started because of their own elections. But since it worked for them, their site is still ongoing beyond elections. So maybe Tsek.ph will follow that pattern,” she said.

But for now, she said, Tsek.ph will focus on the polls ahead.

Tsek.ph is guided by the Code of Principles of the International Fact-checking Network (IFCN) that is committed to fairness and nonpartisanship, a transparency of sources, funding and methodology, and openness to corrections.

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