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What do fact checkers fact-check when?

by   Manoel Horta Ribeiro, et al.

Recent research suggests that not all fact checking efforts are equal: when and what is fact checked plays a pivotal role in effectively correcting misconceptions. In this paper, we propose a framework to study fact checking efforts using Google Trends, a signal that captures search interest over topics on the world's largest search engine. Our framework consists of extracting claims from fact checking efforts, linking such claims with knowledge graph entities, and estimating the online attention they receive. We use this framework to study a dataset of 879 COVID-19-related fact checks done in 2020 by 81 international organizations. Our findings suggest that there is often a disconnect between online attention and fact checking efforts. For example, in around 40 than half of the top 10 most popular claims were not fact checked. Our analysis also shows that claims are first fact checked after receiving, on average, 35 of the total online attention they would eventually receive in 2020. Yet, there is a big variation among claims: some were fact checked before receiving a surge of misinformation-induced online attention, others are fact checked much later. Overall, our work suggests that the incorporation of online attention signals may help organizations better assess and prioritize their fact checking efforts. Also, in the context of international collaboration, where claims are fact checked multiple times across different countries, online attention could help organizations keep track of which claims are "migrating" between different countries.


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