Delfi’s Lie Detector – the best fact-checking success story in Europe, will be introduced at international Facebook event

Delfi team from the project Lie Detector, which fact-checks the content distributed on social networks, has exposed a Russian propaganda network, through which disinformation and false facts about the Baltic states and the Western world are disseminated in a coordinated manner. This project was acknowledged as the greatest success story among all the European fact-checkers, thus Facebook invited representatives of Delfi to introduce Lie Detector at the international event Virtual Global Summit.

Extensive experience against fake news

Fact-checking project Lie Detector, aiming at exposing fake news, is a certified member of the International fact checking network and an official Facebook partner.

As Vitold Jančis, the editor of the Russian version of Lie Detector, told morning television show Delfi Rytas, such a partnership is an aim that not every media can achieve – it requires some very serious work, the journalists must have extensive experience in the media and abilities to find impartial and objective answers to such questions as who and how produces the news, who publishes them, what goals are set, and who exactly would like to influence readers or viewers.

Lie Detector team constantly fact-checks the news not only in Lithuanian, but also in Russian, Polish and other languages. In Lithuania the greatest part of fake news is in Russian.

“If you start fact-checking the news, the primal question you should answer, is who needs such news, why the authors are trying to evoke such emotions rather than others. Although, of course, if a person is sceptical, thinks that, for example, in Lithuania everything is bad, the economy has collapsed, all the people have emigrated, he would probably not check such news, but unequivocally such news are fake, have no basis, only tries to manipulate the facts, hide something,” Jančis says.

According to Jančis, some fake news is spread by people who sincerely believe in conspiracy theories, but another type is biased news, produced and disseminated by certain organizations or groups of people, and for such activities considerable financial resources are needed. This particular fact drew Lie Detector’s attention while doing the fact checking research, that ultimately won a Facebook award.

Exposing disinformation distribution scheme

“We had checked one website where insights, articles, and biased news were shared very actively – mostly clickbait content that would draw readers attention to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and other Western countries. We noticed an interesting thing – all this information was shared by well-known experts from Russia, it was done on several Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, where they have several hundred thousand followers, but none of those accounts had a badge for a verified account. Such badges are guaranteed by Facebook for well-known persons as a proof of their authenticity. We then checked those accounts and it led us to yet another discovery – information shared there is not only from the particular website, but also from a few more that look exactly the same, as they were cloned. We noticed that none of those websites, although operating from Russia, had a media identification number that is required under the laws of the Russian Federation. This means that although the websites do work, they only pretend to be the media,” Jančis leads behind the scenes of the investigation.

Later it became clear that almost all of those websites were administered on behalf of a Russian citizen, and the administrator of one of those websites was a Belarusian citizen running a very strange company selling agricultural machinery.

“Both the company itself and its activities raise a lot of questions. If we go further, the accounts of those experts are administered from Belarus, from Brest exactly. I do not know whether it is a coincidence, but the embassy of the Russian Federation or a large diplomatic unit is located there. The scale of the project itself, the financial sources, the fact that the group of people were gathered together for producing quite professional texts (such publications are not for a crazy person to produce) and the frequency of publications suggest that the project is implemented by a group of people having sufficient financial support, or some kind of organization,” Jančis explains.

Jančis speculates that this group was initially set up with the help of the so-called troll factories, but later the number of its followers grew enormously as ordinary readers who believed fake news began to share them themselves.

Asked what possible future does this network have, Jančis said he is waiting for Facebook’s action: “Let’s wait for the Facebook’s solution: let’s hope Facebook’s administration responds properly and those accounts will either be blocked, or Facebook’s algorithms simply would take control of their activities and the information reach would be limited so that as few people as possible can see it.”

Jančis says he is very pleased not only because this project received Facebook’s attention, but even more because it has been praised by other European fact-checkers.

Delfi – International Fact-Checking Network partner

In June 2019, the top Lithuanian news portal Delfi became partners with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). IFCN network is a part of Poynter Institute – an international leader in strengthening the role of media in society.

IFCN was established in the autumn of 2015; its main objective is sharing good fact-checking practices, that is of crucial importance for the media during the times when the spread of fake news became such a fast-growing problem.

In order to become an IFCN partner, certain media must meet 12 strict evaluation criteria ensuring the transparency of its financing, impartiality and organization’s ambition to reveal the truth as quickly and comprehensibly as possible. Media organizations meeting IFCN standards must rely only on clear, comprehensible, and reliable sources, provide all the necessary information about journalists, comply with the error correction charter.

Delfi journalists take the fact-checking practice very seriously – these days, this is the main responsibility of the media. We believe that by sharing our experience both among the members of IFCN network and at events, such as the Virtual Global Summit, we contribute to one of the most important challenges in today’s world – minimising the amount of fake news online, for all of us it is the greatest motivation in our daily work,” Delfi editor in chief Rasa Lukaitytė-Vnarauskienė says.