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'Now is the time': the journalists fighting fake news before the EU elections

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Our job is to debunk stories, says Thomas Hedin from his Copenhagen office a stones throw from Denmarks seat of power, familiar to many in Britain courtesy of the political TV dramaBorgen. Our job is to say whether something is misleading, fake or true. That's why we are here.
Just over two years ago Hedin, 48, was appointed as the first editor ofTjekDet,a factchecking spinoff from the Danish equivalent of the Economist magazine,Mandag Morgen, or Monday Morning.
The whole fake news as a concept started spreading at the time of the US presidential election and we thought, well, now is the time.
It is set to be a busy few weeks. Hedins team of three full-time reporters and five student researchers has been bolstered in numbers ahead of the European parliament elections on 26 May and the Danish parliament elections on 5 June.
Denmarks intelligence services have warned it is very likely Russia will seek to manipulate the former, infecting the latter, through a wave of eurosceptic, anti-immigrant content.
The European commission has summoned up visions of an enemy exploiting a weapon of mass disinformation a WMD for the modern age in a clash between populist nationalism out to destroy the EU and defenders of liberal democracy.

Brusselsannounced in April 2018that it would support an independent European network of factcheckers who would establish common working methods, exchange best practices, and work to achieve the broadest possible coverage of factual corrections across the EU.
Participants, the commission said, would be selected from EU members of theInternational Fact-Checking Network(IFCN), an offshoot of the US Poynter Institute, a centre for media studies based in Florida.
A year on and after an EU investment of 1m ([/img]
Related: Fighting fake news: Brazil's Comprova project
Recent articles include: No, this photo does not show the Luxembourg prime minister and his husband, in reference to amiscaptioned pictureof the singer Conchita Wurst designed to mock Xavier Bettel; No, 20,000 refugees with credit cards have not crossed the Croatian border and No, 500,000 Danish jobs do not directly depend on the EU single market, an articlewritten in responseto recent claims by pro-EU politicians.
The EU-backed Soma project has asked for the two factchecking networks to work together and exploit the impressive array of analytic tools that Brussels has funded, offering the chance to examine doctored photographs, rigorously examine the output and true identities behind Twitter accounts and access EU databases and official positions on developing news.
But the perceived risk of their factcheckers getting too close to decision-makers with an agenda is proving an obstacle.
Some factcheckers have been involved with the Soma projects and some havent, and that is done from a personal position of each organisations, said Clara Jimenez Cruz, a member of IFCNs advisory board and co-founder ofMaldita.es, a Spanish member of FactcheckEU.
Cruz said FactCheckEU preferred to create our own alliance following our code of principles and methodology rather than being involved as an institution in another project that didnt necessarily have to meet our principles.
Each factchecking organisation is different and quite private about our data, and one of the things that entail working with EU tools is that they ultimately have access to our data, she said.
In response to mooted financial support from the EU, Cruz added: If were factchecking towards a European election in which there are political parties that sustain that they want out of the EU, we, as factcheckers, cannot be funded by a party involved in such conflict.
The standoff is clearly a cause for frustration, although the Soma project still hopes its network will be ready and significantly larger by the time of the elections.
They have been a bit sceptical of the European commission being part of this initiative, admitted Somas project coordinator, Nikos Sarris, of the IFCN, but we are explaining to everyone involved that the European commission is not affecting the process; they are just providing funding for the project. They are not trying to monitor or influence the platform; they are just providing support.

Back inTjekDetsoffices, Hedin and his team Caroline Tranberg, 27, Andreas Rasmussen, 27 and Rasmus Kerrn-Jespersen, 30 are not dogmatic on funding.TjekDethas independently taken a European parliament grant but they can reel off a list of their successes, whether it is highlightinga photoshopped imageof the French president, Emmanuel Macron, an erroneous analysis of voting trends published by the European parliament or videos from Algeria mislabelled as being of riots in Copenhagen sparked by a far-right Islamophobic political party.
For all that Russia is an issue We hear the same as you, they say it is often local figures who push disinformation. If it is shaping the countrys political narrative,TjekDetasks questions, and publishes two to three debunking articles a day.
Kerrn-Jespersen admits that at times it can feel like a losing battle, not least when a well-known politician repeats a lie they were told was untrue days earlier.
Hedin says there is no alternative. We will never win 100%, he said. As long as we can get some readers saying: Thank you for writing about this; I thought this story or that was true, if that happens I am satisfied. Because just leaving the scene to people sharing fake news is not an option either.
Read the full story here.
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