What is the EFCSN?
The European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN) Project is an effort to bring together Europe's fact-checking and open-source intelligence (OSINT) community to create a Code of Professional Integrity that will guide our efforts to combat misinformation. This project is led by six European fact-checkers with the support of the European Commission.
What is the Code of Professional Integrity for Independent European fact-checkers and OSINT organisations?
The Code of Professional Integrity will define the standards of independence, transparency and methodological and journalistic quality needed to be recognised as an independent fact-checking or OSINT organisation in Europe.
Fact-checkers have come to play a critical role in helping the public identify manipulative and misleading information. They have provided facts when they were most needed. In parallel, open source investigators have been crucial in investigating and exposing the actors running these disinformation campaigns. But today’s disinformation crisis has only highlighted the importance of the conversation this project proposes: which organisations can call themselves independent fact-checkers or reliable open source investigators?
That is a question that has been posed by fact-checkers and OSINT organisations themselves, who believe in the importance of establishing standards of independence, transparency and methodological and journalistic quality. Setting and enforcing those standards, as well as creating mechanisms to evaluate their compliance or to help organisations trying to reach them, can only be done by independent European fact-checkers themselves through discussion and agreement. A consensus from these conversations will be translated into a Code of Professional Integrity for Independent European fact-checking and OSINT organisations, together with a mechanism to implement it and help organisations fulfil its requirements.
Which organisations can be involved?
This project aims to involve fact-checking and OSINT organisations working across Europe in order to create a Code of Professional Integrity that has the full legitimacy that it needs to be recognised and implemented.
In order to do so, fact-checking and OSINT organisations based in the member states of the Council of Europe have been invited to join a Wide Group, that is at the heart of this project, amending and approving each step of the process, from the Code to its Governance, in order to lend legitimacy to the results. An application process for other fact-checking and OSINT organisations interested is available here.
Top European academic Institutions, researchers specialised in fact-checking and clients of fact-checking services such as platforms are also invited to take part in the open consultation process. Those organisations or companies willing to participate can reach out to join the effort here.
Which organisations are leading the project?
Does this mean that the six organisations leading the project will have the final say on the Code of Professional Integrity for Independent European fact-checking and OSINT organisations?
Creating the Code will be a collaborative effort between Europe's fact-checking and OSINT organisations: they are the ones which will have the final say by amending and approving the Code and its Governance on a voting basis. The six leaders of the project are merely here to facilitate the process.
The aim is to bring together Europe's fact-checking and OSINT communities into a Wide Group that will inspire, amend and finally approve the text of the Code. Given its size, the Wide Group will appoint a Working Committee who will guide the discussions and ultimately draft the articles.
This Working Committee will be appointed by the Wide Group and it will include fact-checkers from every region of Europe as well as representatives of OSINT organisations.
How can my organisation get involved?
If you are a European academic Institution, a researcher specialised in fact-checking or a client of fact-checking services willing to take part in the open consultation process you can reach out to join the effort here.
How much time is this going to take me?
If you are a fact-checker or an OSINT organisation your involvement is key in the process. The EFCSN project will ask one person from each organisation to take part in surveys, one hour interviews and participate in online discussions. You will have to review the Code’s drafts and Governance bylaws for amendments and approval and you will be expected to express your vote throughout the process.
Furthermore, a two day meeting will be held in Madrid in September 2022 which you will be expected to attend. The EFCSN project will provide limited financial aid for attendance based on your organisation's financial capacity and we will try to make it a hybrid meeting to the best of our capacity.
If you are an academic research institution or a client of fact-checking services you will be expected to take part in the open consultation process through surveys and interviews. You may also be contacted to give advice on specifics throughout the process.
Why are academic research institutions and clients of fact-checking services invited to the open consultation?
Independent fact-checking and OSINT organisations will be the ones creating the code through the Wide Group, nevertheless, during the process they can benefit immensely from the knowledge of those with a more academic understanding of the phenomenon. Europe has a thriving yet not very large group of academic and research institutions working in this field that will be invited to provide expertise and thus improve the effectiveness of the Code. They will serve as consultants, participate in its debate, and their insights will be taken into account when drafting the Code.
In the case of fact-checking organisations, their “clients” need to have a pipeline to offer their views on what it should be expected from them. Those clients are mainly online platforms and media outlets. This consortium will try to engage all those audiences in the drafting of the Code so they can express their opinions in an organised and fruitful manner.
In this day and age, online platforms are instrumental in both the dissemination of dis and misinformation and the debunks fact-checkers use to counter those misleading messages. They can help fact-checkers escalate their work to reach greater audiences and make it more digitally accessible, but they can also learn from the Wide Group how they themselves could be more effective in fighting disinformation inside the platforms. That conversation, particularly when sustained over time, will be beneficial for both the Code and the general state of the fight against dis and misinformation in Europe. Media outlets also have a dual relationship when it comes to fact-checking: they are sometimes inadvertent propellers of dis and misinformation, weaponized in organised disinformation campaigns. At the same time, their contribution to the dissemination of quality information and fact-checks in particular can be invaluable to the fight against that phenomenon. The Wide Group needs to learn from their experiences.
What is the timeline?
The EFCSN project is divided in two phases:
PHASE 1: Writing the Code of Professional Integrity for Independent European fact-checking and OSINT organisations
- February 2022: The Wide Group convenes and selects a Working Group
- April 2022: Open Consultation
- June 2022: First draft of the Code
- July 2022: Approval of the Code
- August 2022: Publication of the Code
PHASE 2: Launching the Code, its governance and its implementation
- OCTOBER 2022: Governance of the Code approved by the Wide Group
- NOVEMBER 2022: Governance Body appointed by the Wide Group
- JANUARY 2023:: Procedure to adhere to the Code is launched
- JANUARY TO JUNE 2023: Communication and advocacy of the Code and training activities
How will organisations join the Code?
Taking part in the process will not automatically make organisations signatories. After the publication of the Code, there will be a procedure for organisations to adhere to its standards and become a signatory. This process will entail a verification procedure.