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Wisconsin Watch is partnering with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. 

Three news outlets, including Wisconsin Watch, are participating in a pilot project to push back on misinformation surrounding the 2022 midterm elections. 

The pilot project with the newly launched Gigafact focuses on rapidly responding to claims that spread misinformation, attack election integrity or election officials or which promote voter suppression or intimidation. 

Also participating in the project are the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting and The Nevada Independent.

You can read 140-word fact briefs related to the upcoming election or request a fact check on the home page of wisconsinwatch.org or at this link

As members of the Gigafact network, the newsrooms swiftly identify unsubstantiated claims circulating on social media regarding the states’ campaigns and elections, then contribute no-frills fact briefs to correct the record. Gigafact works to get these fact briefs seen by the public and searchable through the moderation processes of the major social and search platforms. 

“These regional and local nonprofit newsrooms are doing amazing work reporting on important democratic issues,” said Chandran Sankaran, founder of Gigafact. “We want to help them find new pathways to bring this authoritative knowledge into social media to intercept baseless claims before they have a chance to develop and travel.”

The bulk of Gigafact’s funding to date has come from Repustar, a public benefit corporation building solutions to combat misinformation. Repustar has also donated the technology platform that powers Gigafact. Repustar is currently majority owned by Sankaran, the CEO and founder, along with a handful of minority investors. No political or partisan organizations have any presence in the financing or management of Repustar. Gigafact has applied for nonprofit status.

According to Dee J. Hall, managing editor and co-founder of Wisconsin Watch, joining Gigafact is part of the nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization’s commitment to using a variety of strategies to combat mis- and disinformation. 

“Producing these 140-word fact briefs is a promising approach to countering false information, which is polluting our culture, politically and otherwise,” Hall said. “We’re willing to try any reasonable strategy to counter this insidious trend.” 

Wisconsin Watch also will hire a full-time reporter to investigate misinformation beginning in 2023 as part of a separate University of Wisconsin-Madison-led project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Like Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada are swing states whose voters are often the targets of false information.

Read some of the fact briefs produced by Wisconsin Watch as part of the Gigafact project.

“We see many unsubstantiated claims circulating about candidates, key issues and the integrity of Nevada elections,” said Elizabeth Thompson, editor of The Nevada Independent. “Nevada is a key swing state, and false claims of election fraud can and have done considerable damage to faith in the election system. It’s critical that the public has access to the facts this November. Gigafact’s program allows us to get essential information out when and where it’s most needed.”

Brandon Quester, the founder, executive director and editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, said misinformation surrounding Arizona’s 2020 election proliferated online and in public discourse. The trend, he said, has only increased. 

“Although timely fact checking is a bit outside AZCIR’s traditional deep-dive reporting timeline, we believe strongly in countering misinformation in our state, especially now,” he said. “We’re excited to bring our investigative reporting expertise to bear, using our knowledge to help set the record straight in a more immediate way.”

Professionals in news media and platform content moderation can access the stream of fact briefs via email alerts, RSS feeds or API via this resource page. Any organizations interested in learning more about Gigafact can reach out to robyn@repustar.com for more details.

Wisconsin Watch is the news outlet of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit with offices at the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and in Milwaukee at Marquette University. It was launched in 2009.

Its mission is to increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy. Its guiding values: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.

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