In this digital age, fact checking has been made very easy with the features of the internet. Sitting in the comfort of your home, you can check multiple news sources to verify stories and other information. There are also many verification software that are user friendly and easily available via the internet.
But going back to the 1970s and early 1980s, before the internet ever existed, fact checking or verification was very still possible (and did happen among journalists and academics), although it wasn’t as easy and fast as it has become in today’s digital culture.
According to the International Communications Union, as of 2019, only 47% of the world’s population uses the internet in developing countries. That leaves a very wide gap between developed and developing countries in relation to capacity to correct misinformation before it does much damage to society.
But how does one fact-check information in a non-internet environment? Here are some simple and effective ways of fact checking without the internet:
- Through hand written applications:
Written applications to any government parastatal or MDAs for the purpose of using the information for fact checking is one of the best ways to verify claims either made by the government or individuals. You can access data, terms of contracts, budget allocations, etc by simply writing to the agencies holding the information you need.
Remember, On the 28th of May 2011, the Nigerian national assembly enacted the Freedom of Information Law, also known as the FOI. And it was designed to ensure quality of access to and participation in government. The main objective of the law is to ensure that every person who desires to know how the government operates can do so with minimum effort and diligence. Knowing how the government operates and having full access to any information whatsoever, arms you with the best tool needed to fact check. The law was made to improve standards of media reporting and investigation, reduce reckless rumours and improve due diligence in verifying facts which are part of the public record. With this act, access to information usually takes within 3 days but no later than 7 days. Here’s an article on how to go about it
- Through eyewitness reporting:
The saying seeing is believing is still very much accurate, especially for fact checking or verification. Before you share that news with friends and family, it’s best to first, see for yourself. Let’s use the following practical example for illustration. A minister claims to have commissioned a newly completed local airport. As a curious individual, you can visit the local airport personally to verify the claims by the minister, before sharing or spreading the news. You have every right to do so.
- Through trusted parties:
Relying on trusted third parties is another effective way of verifying and running fact checks, and sometimes it only takes a phone call to get your facts. Another quick example, a governor claims to have paid all the teachers in his state their long owed gratuity or pension. If your relative resides in the state and is a pensioned teacher, you can quickly put a call across to him or her to confirm whether or not he or she has been paid. If they are not pensioners, you can have them call other friends and colleagues to verify the claims by the governor. With your facts, you can spread the news or call out the claims to be false and misleading.
- Through multiple offline sources:
About non-internet based sources
This time, make very good use of print media (Newspapers, Magazines, Newsletters). Rely on using many credible news sources to verify the authenticity of claims and news. Sometimes, there might be too many inconsistencies and with that, it’s best to be reserved with your findings or think very critically before you share such news.
Holding leaders accountable is still a collective practice but it is also a useful personal matter; it shows patriotism and is very rewarding in the quest for truth and fairness in a democracy. While applying all the above might take a little more time, they are more factual and will bring more clarity that might lead to other interesting insights.
The researcher wrote this article per the DUBAWA 2020 FELLOWSHIP to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.