MCA Launches India’s Fact-Checking Network (FCN)

The initiative aims to set up guidelines and standards for fact-checking organizations in India to ensure their credibility and transparency. 

In a world where misinformation and fake news have become a global problem, policymakers, social media platforms, and ordinary citizens are all caught in the battle of truth versus falsehood, fact versus fiction.

Misinformation Combat Alliance (MCA) is taking a major step to combat this menace of misinformation by establishing its very own Fact-Checking Network (FCN).  The initiative aims to create a framework that sets clear standards for fact-checking organizations in India, ensuring their credibility and transparency. 

In India, the fact-checking community is thriving and diverse, but the need to earn the trust of the public is the need of the hour. People must feel confident that fact-checkers are unbiased, rigorous, transparent, and committed to the truth, said Bharat Gupta, President of MCA in a press release. 

The Code of Principles

The Fact-Checking Network (FCN) comes with a set of guiding principles designed to ensure that fact-checkers maintain:

  • High standards of credibility and transparency
  • Commitment to impartiality and fairness
  • Explaining fact-checking methods and providing evidence for conclusions
  • Disclose their funding sources to avoid any potential biases

The FCN Code of Principles is tailored to the specific needs of India’s digital citizens. Fact-checking organizations must make their fact-checks easily accessible to the public, ensuring they are not hidden behind paywalls, according to the MCA press release.

Moreover, the FCN expects these fact-checks to be available for non-commercial use, enabling their use in awareness campaigns and education under a Creative Commons license. Privacy and safety considerations, including those mandated by Indian law, as well as Personal Data Protection under the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023.

Who can join the FCN?

The FCN framework is open to all fact-checking organizations in India, whether or not they are affiliated with the MCA. Fact-checkers focusing on India and publishing in English or any of the 22 languages recognized by the Indian Constitution are eligible to apply for verified signatory status.

“The FCN is a multi-stakeholder initiative built on public trust. The goal is to create a network of trustworthy fact-checkers that can collectively combat misinformation and fake news,” said Rajneil Kamath, Vice President of MCA.

Benefits of the FCN

Organizations that meet the standards will be accredited as ‘verified signatories’ to the Code. Misinformation erodes trust in media. So, this certification serves as a mark of trust.

Being a ‘verified signatory’ of the FCN Code of Principles means that the organization follows rigorous procedures, maintains impartiality, and is transparent about its methods and funding sources. 

It signifies to the public, social media platforms, and government authorities that the organization is a trustworthy source committed to the highest standards of fact-checking. They can prioritize them in making valuable partners in addressing the issue of misinformation.

The FCN Board

Organizations that agree to abide by the Code of Principles will become part of the FCN framework. A self-governing FCN Board will ensure compliance with these principles. 

This board is comprised of eminent individuals from the media, broadcasting, journalism, human rights, and law, all of whom must be Indian citizens. A retired Supreme Court or High Court judge will serve as the chairperson. 

The board can take action if a fact-checking organization breaches the Code of Principles. In serious cases, the Board may revoke the organization’s ‘verified signatory’ status and prevent them from reapplying in the future.

The FCN framework also allows for active public engagement in maintaining the integrity of fact-checking. Any member of the general public can file a complaint if they believe a ‘verified signatory’ has violated the Code of Principles.

Fact Check This Hotline

To encourage public participation in the fight against fake news, the MCA has set up an email (factcheckthis@mcaindia.in) where people can send potential or suspected misinformation for fact-checking.

Its member fact-checking organizations will verify it conducting thorough research and investigation. If the information is found to be false or misleading, the MCA and its member newsrooms will publish their findings, debunking the misinformation and providing accurate information to the public.

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