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Apr 11 / King Kaufman

A master class in online fact-checking from MediaShift

Within hours of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s election to the papacy last month, rumors flew online that he had played a major role in his country’s “Dirty War,” a period of state terrorism in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Those who reported the connection or tweeted about it ended up issuing corrections and retractions.

So what went wrong? As usual, sloppy or non-existent fact-checking was the culprit. Writing for PBS’s MediaShift site, Dutch journalist Henk van Ess patiently lays out what should have happened in an exhaustive post headlined Fact-Checking Social Media: The Case of the Pope and the Dictator.

It’s a master class in verifying information online. I’m not going to summarize it here. You have to go read it. Van Ess will introduce you to tools and methods you probably didn’t know about, including Backtweets and how to get statistics from bit.ly links.

Van Ess also plays Google like a violin to find the answers he’s looking for—and that would have saved a lot of people a lot of embarrassment last month if they’d used his methods.

  • Kelly Scaletta

    I’m beginning to get the sense that you’re trying to make a point about this whole “checking stuff” thing.