Being essential in Colombia means fact-checking for many diverse audiences, TikTok, mural newspapers and memes

Colombiacheck has expanded its reach, made strategic alliances and made fact-checking sexy for audiences with different levels of media literacy.

By Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres, Colombiacheck Director

For citizens to make informed decisions in a democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of information are essential. But now that, in the words of Moisés Naim, democracy around the world is threatened by populism, political polarization and misinformation, fact-checking is essential.

And in a year of legislative and presidential elections in Colombia, when the parties in dispute for the popular vote point out that there is no democracy in the country and/or promote narratives of stigmatization and post-truth, the work of checking and verifying has become increasingly important.

With more than 35 million inhabitants vaccinated, 2 million Venezuelans applying for the Temporary Protection Statute that regularizes them for 10 years, and approaching six years since the signing of the peace agreement between the former FARC guerrilla and the government — which also marked the birth of Colombiacheck — we are preparing for a new era. It will include a new president, the arrival of the "post-pandemic" — which leaves behind terms such as herd immunity, droplets and confinement — and also six years of our journalistic work.

In 2021, we did more. We started well-informed dancing on TikTok, created a newsletter for those who use Telegram, began a project on misinformation that affects returned Venezuelan and Colombian migrants — with migrant fact-checkers — and we even started doing Twitter Spaces. We are distributing verifications off-line in-wall newspapers and radio bulletins to talk about migration, xenophobia and online scams. We trained journalists in verification in five cities in Colombia. We allied ourselves with El Detector de Univisión — a new, certified member of the IFCN — and with local universities to train future fact-checkers and detect misinformation about vaccines.

But we also innovated. We launched the Spanish version of Our.News called “Infotrición” with several Latin American partners and support from Poynter and the IFCN. We gave workshops to the elderly and even a pilot for young people from schools. And because it is not enough to verify, audiences must be taught to detect, doubt and verify, as well as to inoculate themselves against lies by consuming fact-checking. So every Friday you can watch our memes, every month you can watch a new episode of our humorous videocast Verifiquen Vagos, and we promote educational content thanks to Twitter support.

And now we are even drinking “tinticos” (traditional black coffee in Colombia) with audiences to talk about the verification process in election times while working 48 hours in a row before and during the March 13 legislative elections.

With a history similar to Brexit — with a plebiscite on peace in 2016 submerged in misinformation — Colombiacheck has managed to expand its reach at the pace of demographic, age and political changes, make strategic alliances and do something that is also essential now: being sexy for audiences with different levels of media literacy. All under our motto: Make viral verification, not misinformation.