The Seoul National University (SNU) FactCheck Center is the first and only fact-checking platform in South Korea. The center was established under the cooperation of the SNU Institute of Communication Research and twenty-seven major South Korean media outlets (as of Nevember 2019). SNUFactCheck is a not-for-profit public information service for which the SNU Institute of Communication Research provides the web platform and the media outlets provide verified, high- quality content. The media outlets collaborating with SNU Fact Check Center verify 1) the validity of statements made by officials, politicians, and candidates during debates, speeches, interviews, press releases, and other official formats and 2) the validity of statements dispersed to the public via the press or the social media. The objective of such fact-checking exercises is to help improve the knowledge on and understanding of public matters on the part of constituents and all information consumers. The SNUFactCheck Committee, an independent entity consisting of experts from the academia and journalism industry, is in charge of the highest-level decision-making at the SNU FactCheck Center, ensuring the political autonomy and management transparency of the center.
Disinformation, as known as fake news, is becoming a political and social issue worldwide. In South Korea, disinformation was created and dispersed on a massive scale with the purpose of political instigation since the initial stages of former President Park Geun-hye's impeachment. However, legal and institutional regulation of disinformation requires a prudent approach due to the possibility of infringing upon the freedoms of expression and press. Regulations on disinformation could easily devolve into a form of censorship by the government or discourage the public from freely expressing their opinions. A consensus has been reached globally that the most fundamental solution to disinformation is to provide more verified, healthy information to the public. In the United States and France, universities and major media outlets are leading the trend of providing fact-checking services to the public. Global platforms such as Facebook and Google are also collaborating with media outlets to provide fact-checking services. SNUFactCheck Center is a public service for which the academia and journalism industry have collaborated to restore news consumers' trust in journalism and to properly respond to disinformation, which has emerged as a major social issue in South Korea. It was established with the purpose of providing a forum for fact-based public discourse that is necessary for a healthy civic society.
SNU Fact Check Code of Principles
1. The SNU Fact Check Center maintains impartiality and nonpartisanship: Fact-checking entities remain unbiased when dealing with issues with multiple stakeholders, and do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues being fact-checked.
2. The following are subject to fact-checking:
- 1) Issues must be of legitimate public concern. Matters of importance that affect civic life and well-being, such as election, legislative process, public health and environment should be subject to fact-checking.
- 2) Statements must be verifiable based on sound evidence. Opinions cannot be fact-checked.
- 3) Citizens should be able to propose issues to be fact-checked.
3. The fact-checking process is based on consistent and clear standards: Factuality should be the consistent standard for selection and verification of statements. Evidence alone, not prejudice, should dictate the conclusions. The fact-checking entities should explain the context of fact-checking in order to promote public understanding.
4. All sources of fact-checking should be open to public for replication of results:
The fact-checking entities should explain all sources used for fact-checking in as much detail as possible so that the public can verify them, to the extent that a source’s personal security is not compromised.
5. Any error in fact checks should be corrected and disclosed publicly:
Fact-checking entities must explicitly disclose any error in the fact-checking process or the results. When readers report any error in the fact checks or any violation of rights of private persons resulting from the fact checks, the fact-checking entity must take adequate measures to address the issue.
6. Fact-checking entities must be transparent about their funding sources.
When accepting funding from other organizations, the fact-checking entities should disclose their funding sources. Fact-checking entities must maintain the arm’s length principle in accepting financial support. The funding should not affect the fact-checking process or the results. No funding is to be accepted from any directly involved persons or parties of interest.
7. Fact-checking entities cannot be members of political parties or members of any interest group:
Fact-checking entities should not be members of political parties. They should not be constituents of interest groups associated with fact-checked issues.
2017. 3. 29
Held the launch ceremony of SNU FactCheck Center and celebratory seminar (16 media outlets were participants of the inauguration.)
2017. 4. 4
Launched the SNUFactCheck service in the presidential election section of NAVER, a major South Korean search engine
2017. 9 ~
Launched a supporting program for long term fact-checking projects by Korean media outlets
2018. 1. 29 ~
Launched the SNUFactCheck service on the ‘FactCheck’ of NAVER.
2018. 2 ~
Launched a fact-checking internship program for college students
2018. 3. 29
Hosted the first Korea FactCheck Awards
2018. 4 ~
Launched a diploma program for fact-checkers which provide re-education journalists with skills and knowledge of fact-checking
Dispatched 10 journalists to Global Fact 5 in Rome, Italy
2018. 7. 18
Hosted The 2018 International Fact Check Conference in Seoul
Speakers: Bill Adair(Prof. at Duke University) Alexios Mantzarlis (Director of IFCN)
Won 2018 Asia Future Forum Human Technology Awards
2019. 3. 25
Hosted the second Korea FactCheck Awards
Dispatched 10 journalists to Global Fact 6 in Cape Town, South Africa
2019. 12. 2.
Held the IFCN-SNUFactCheck joint fact checking workshop in Seoul
• SNUFactCheck Center verifies the validity of facts.
Media outlets that are participating members of SNUFactCheck Center verify the validity of facts based on evidence collected from their data and investigation. The result of the verification is identified on a five-point scale of Not True, Mostly Not True, Half True, Mostly True, and True. Cases for which the validity cannot be determined can be identified as Undecidable. At the time of the verification, the fact-checking media outlet must provide the evidence that served as the basis of their conclusion.
• Participating media outlets cross-verify facts.
Participating media outlets can conduct cross-verification for identical facts. For decades, South Korea's media outlets have been embroiled in controversies over political bias, and the controversies in turn led to debates on the media's impartiality and a deep mistrust of the country's press. SNUFactCheck Center allows multiple media outlets to conduct fact-checking on each issue, and it allows users to compare the verification results of each media outlet and independently reach a conclusion. The cross-checking of facts among media outlets allows the companies to improve the quality of their fact-checking through competition. Moreover, if participating media outlets reach consensus on their verification results more frequently, an improvement can be anticipated in the consumers' trust in the media and the quality of South Korean journalism.
Since its founding on March 29th, 2017, SNUFactCheck has verified statements by officials, politicians, candidates and checked the validity of rumors spread over the public through social media. SNU FactCheck has provided over 1,900 fact-checking results as of November, 2019. Especially SNU FactCheck successfully demonstrated its competence as South Korea’s first-ever fact-checking service in the face of 19th early presidential election, a historic and unprecedented political event in Korea’s contemporary history. This achievement holds great significance in that the SNUFactCheck Center proved the potential for trust and cooperation among media outlets. SNUFactCheck has been supporting partner news institutions by regularly sending interns and assisting long term fact-checking projects. SNUFactCheck has also been conducting an education program for journalists who are fact-checking in practice. These journalists have attended Global Fact, a conference hosted by International Fact Checking Network(IFCN) since 2018.
SNUFactCheck Center, the first and only fact-checking platform in the country became a hub for fact-checking institutions from within and beyond South Korea. SNU FactCheck Center seeks to provide journalism of the highest quality that delivers the most trustworthy and in-depth information by collaborating with participating media outlets. In addition, SNUFactCheck Center forms a global network and mutual assistance against disinformation by collaborating with overseas fact-checking institutions.
SNUFactCheck Center also provides domestic and international news on research and industry trends related to fact-checking. Those working in the academia, journalism industry, and non-profit sector and any other interested citizen can easily access and utilize information provided by SNUFactCheck Center on topics such as various countries' fact-checking services and legislative responses.
SNUFactCheck Center plans to administrate a media literacy project to help individual citizens distinguish disinformation and independently conduct fact-checking. SNUFactCheck Center is currently working on a project for automated fact-checking.
SNUFactCheck will establish a network of individuals and resources with the journalism industry, academia, civil society, government, and overseas institutions for the better fact checking.