Delegation of the European Union to Tanzania

Making fact-checking a global practice: towards a common approach to countering disinformation and misinformation

02/07/2021 - 21:10

7 July 2021, New York - Event on Fact Checking

Introduction and context

Disinformation and misinformation have been broadly recognized among major modern threats. They affect societies and the functioning of democracies all over the world and, with the profusion of communication channels and advances in digital technology, they spread rapidly and threaten public goods, risk increased polarization in societies and limit the fundamental freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference.

Fabricated or false information is often blended with verified facts, thus further enhancing its undermining impact on democratic institutions and procedures, including election integrity, trust within societies, and the credibility of national and international efforts in areas such as health, science, climate change, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In some cases, information manipulation distorts civic discourse and the integrity of the information environment through the inauthentic or manipulated distribution of content (via fake accounts, inauthentic outreach, etc.) or the suppression of alternative voices.  The spread of disinformation, information manipulation and misinformation, including on the Internet, can be deliberately designed to incite violence, hatred, discrimination or hostility both among nations and within societies.  

Recent progress in the UN context

The damaging effect of disinformation and misinformation has become especially visible since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As UN Secretary General António Guterres said in May 2020 “as COVID-19 spreads, a tsunami of misinformation, hate, scapegoating and scare-mongering has been unleashed.” In response to this phenomenon, the UN launched in May 2020 the “Verified” initiative aimed at tackling the growing scourge of COVID-19 misinformation by increasing the volume and reach of trusted, accurate information. The consecutive phases of the campaign, including #PledgeToPause and #OnlyTogether, led by the UN Department for Global Communications with the active engagement of many UN Member States, has provided information and advice around several themes: science, solidarity, responsible behavior and information support to vaccination. The new period of the Pause initiative of the Verified campaign, launched on 30 June 2021, aims at further raising awareness, strengthening solidarity, and educating global audiences to stop the spread of misinformation.

In parallel, 130 UN Member States, as well as Palestine and the European Union, issued a Cross-Regional Statement on the “Infodemic” in the context of COVID-19, initiated in June 2020 by thirteen Member States. As stated in the document “the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the crucial need for access to free, reliable, trustworthy, factual, multilingual, targeted, accurate, clear and science-based information.

The UN’s active engagement in the fight against the COVID-19 “infodemic,” as well as the acknowledged need to “contribute to countering proliferation of misinformation and disinformation[1], consolidates the organisation’s role in strengthening the ability of societies worldwide to build media literacy skills, resistance and resilience against the impact of disinformation and misinformation, in particular in times of global crises.

On 25 March 2021 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 75/267 proclaiming “Global Media and Information Literacy Week,” which promotes commemorative, educational and public awareness activities that tackle the issue of disinformation and misinformation and encourages Member States and other actors to increase awareness, capacity for prevention and resilience in this respect.

The overall importance of resilience building

Governments, but also civil society, academia, independent media, fact-checkers and the private industry are employing a wide range of resilience building activities: awareness raising, strategic communication, media literacy, support to civil society and media, internal and external cooperation and capacity building. By making societies, infrastructures, government institutions and citizens more resilient against disinformation, information manipulation and interference, indirect costs are imposed on perpetrators as it becomes more difficult for them to penetrate and influence the information environment.

While a lot of work has been done on this, international coordination on resilience building activities could still be further improved to maximize their result. For example, joint awareness raising programmes or donor coordination on media and media literacy support are options to be considered.

The contribution of fact-checking

A core task of media work since its origins, fact-checking has now become a requirement for all media users of the 21st century, who more than ever consume a wide variety of news sources – from mainstream media to decentralized online sources.

The promotion of a culture of fact- and source-checking is instrumental in achieving such important goals as increasing transparency, trust-enhancement and media and information literacy. Fact-checking can also play a role in the imposition of costs to perpetrators of disinformation and information manipulation: the higher the resilience of targeted audiences to false and manipulated information, the more complex and sophisticated their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) will need to become. The ability to expose disinformation and information manipulation is instrumental to strengthening the resilience of societies. It also contributes profoundly to ensuring balance between the fight against disinformation/information manipulation/misinformation and our commitments to ensure individuals’ freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press and access to reliable information. Being a measure of non-regulatory nature, undertaken by a wide range of different stakeholders, fact- and source-checking can help to protect freedom of expression and freedom to receive and impart information and ideas.

Many initiatives to streamline fact-checking have been rolled out on national and regional levels, including networking and codification initiatives. The International Fact Checking Network as well as its Code of Principles with 91 verified active signatories in almost 50 countries could be mentioned as an example. More work is needed to exploit the untapped potential, in particular at the global level. The UN and its relevant agencies, in particular UNESCO, could be a promising framework to address the issue of common actions, including with engagement of the online platforms, in response to the global threat of disinformation and misinformation.

While fact-checking is important, it should not be seen as a solution in isolation and needs to be embedded in a wide range of other resilience building initiatives and a holistic approach to combat disinformation, information manipulation, interference and misinformation.

Objective of the event

The Permanent Missions of the Republic of Costa Rica, Ghana, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Lithuania, Ukraine, the United States of America and the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations in New York, with the participation of the UN Department of Global Communications, invite you to a virtual event “Making fact-checking a global practice: towards a common approach to countering disinformation and misinformation” on 7 July 2021 at 10:00 (EDT) / 16:00 (CET).

The event will aim to identify points of convergence, best practices and possible ways forward for a meaningful contribution of fact- and source-checking activities to fighting disinformation and misinformation, as well as increased synergy between international organisations, states, online platforms, media, fact-checkers and other relevant stakeholders. Participants will address the experience of fact- and source-checking with a particular focus on the activities of the online platforms and how to develop a vision of the current trends and possible common actions, in particular within the framework of Global Media and Information Literacy Week.

Guiding questions

The participants are invited to discuss inter alia the following issues:

  • What are the lessons learned from fact-checking/resilience building initiatives taken so far, and how to ensure synergy of efforts to counter disinformation and misinformation, undertaken by the UN system, states and international organisations, media, fact-checking networks and online platforms?
  • What can internet/social media users learn from fact-checkers? Does everyone need to be their own fact-checker?
  • What is the role of fact- and source-checking in countering disinformation while safeguarding our commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms?
  • What should be the focus of the 2021 Global Media and Information Literacy Week to strengthen fact- and source-checking capacities of all producing, transmitting, sharing and consuming information?
  • How can fact- and source-checking help prevent the misuse of information space for inciting hatred and hostility, in particular through online platforms?
  • How can the international community contribute to a better adoption and use of international norms and also support the development of a shared conceptual framework of the threat?



Opening by  H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of   Ukraine to the UN




Moderated by Mr. Ryan Heath, Senior editor, host of Global Translations newsletter and podcast for POLITICO, New York

10.05 – 10.20

Welcoming remarks (3 minutes)

  • H.E. Ms. Emine Dzhaparova, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
  • H.E. Mr. Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania
  • H.E. Mr. Cho Hyun, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN
  • Mr. Maher Nasser, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Global Communications, UN Secretariat

10.20 – 10.50

Panellists (5 minutes each):

  • Ms. Jessica Zucker, Head of Misinformation Policy for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Facebook
  • Mr. Lutz Güllner, Head of Division at the EEAS - Task Forces and Information Analysis Division 
  • Mr. Yevhen Fedchenko, Director of Mohyla School of Journalism, StopFake chief editor (Ukraine)
  • Mr. Viktoras Daukšas, Head of DebunkEU Disinformation Analysis Center (Lithuania)
  • Dr. EunRyung Chong, Director of the SNU FactCheck Center (Republic of Korea), Independent Member of the Advisory Board of the IFCN

10.50 – 11.25

Q&A discussion (2 minutes per intervention)

11.25 – 11.30

Closing remarks by

  • H.E. Mr. Harold Adlai Agyeman, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN
  • H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN

Watch the recording


[1] UN General Assembly Resolution 75/101B “United Nations global communications policies and activities” (adopted on 10 December 2020)


New York
United States of America