The Misinformation Combat Alliance (MCA), on Tuesday, announced a framework for an independent Fact Checking Network (FCN), in an effort to develop self-governing standards and best practices for fact-checking organisations in India. In a press release, the MCA said that the framework will enable them to "become trusted partners in the fight against the weaponisation of misinformation and disinformation".
The MCA is a collaborative alliance of businesses, organisations, institutions, industry associations, and government entities. Its primary objective is to collectively address the issues of misinformation and fake news, with the aim of fostering an enlightened and well-informed society.
The alliance has also announced an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) that will serve as a hotline where posts or messages containing potential misinformation can be sent for fact-checking to MCA associated fact-checking newsrooms.
What are FCN's code of principles?
According to the press release, fact-checking organisations have been rising to the continually changing problem of misinformation and disinformation, with a mission to educate individuals about the risks associated with deceptive and untrue content and to guide them against being misled such information.
Therefore, MCA's FCN outlines "a robust Code of Principles" which is intended to offer Indian fact-checkers the direction required to maintain a high standard of accuracy in their work.
The Code includes commitments towards non-partisanship and fairness (including not unduly targeting any side), transparency of methodology (including explaining how fact checks are done and what evidence is used) and transparency of funding (to ensure readers are aware of any relevant bias).
Prioritising the interests of India’s "digital nagriks", the organisations which sign up to the Code have to commit to ensuring that their checks are easily accessible and are not hidden behind a paywall, and that their checks can be "used for non-commercial purposes like awareness campaigns under a creative commons license".
Furthermore, they must exhibit a dedication towards safeguarding privacy and security, encompassing adherence to Indian legal provisions for shielding the identities of minors and individuals affected by severe crimes, along with securing personal data in compliance with the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023.
Lastly, these organisations will be overseen by the FCN board, which is a self-governing body.
What are the functions of FCN board?
The Board will assess the signatory's adherence to the FCN's Code of Principles and grant accreditation, demonstrating to India's digital citizens that the organisation is reliable and trustworthy.
The FCN Board will be comprising of Indian citizens who have backgrounds in fields such as media, journalism, human rights, or law, and will be headed by a retired judge from either the Supreme Court or High Court.
This board's role will involve evaluating reports submitted by assessors to determine if an organisation meets the criteria for becoming a signatory to the Code. Additionally, it will be responsible for enforcing consequences on any signatory that breaches the Code, which may include the revocation of their accreditation.
Furthermore, the FCN framework will allow any reader or viewer to submit complaints in the event of signatory violations, ensuring that the general public has the ability to hold fact-checking organisations accountable for their actions.
Fact-checking organisations that publish fact-checks in any of the 22 officially recognised languages of India will be eligible to apply for signatory status. The current members of MCA include BOOMLive, Fact Crescendo, Factly, India Today Fact-Check, Logically Facts, Newschecker, NewsMeter, Newsmobile, The Healthy Indian Project (THIP), The Logical Indian, The Quint and Vishwas News.
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