Checking things out with Faktisk.no

To tell the truth

Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB
King Harald and Crown Prince Haakon visited the offices of fact-checking organization Faktisk.no in January and learned about the organization’s work to verify news from the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Ragnhild Hjeltnes
Assistant Editor
The Norwegian American

“We need a society with a shared understanding of right and wrong, so we can safeguard the trust between us,” said King Harald in his New Year’s Eve speech on Dec. 31. “Speak the truth about reality,” he added. And he urged the Norwegian people to come together and care for one another.

It is a timely message. The social divisions that we see everywhere also exist in Norway. Misinformation circulates widely online. Many of us live in information silos, rarely interacting with people across the aisle. Opinions are shared loudly in social media echo chambers, and extremism is on the rise.

It is more important than ever that we all actively seek out and speak the truth. With the current global political unrest and decline of democracy, the stakes are high.

Following up on the point he made in his speech, King Harald visited the offices of the Norwegian fact-checking organization Faktisk.no at the end of January. Alongside Crown Prince Haakon, he learned about the organization’s work to verify news from the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and how it detects misinformation online.

Faktisk.no (“faktisk” translates to “in fact”) was established in 2017, following the 2016 U.S. election. At the time, several Norwegian journalists raised the alarm and saw an urgency to combat the proliferation of misinformation.

A number of news organizations eventually came together and formed what is now an independent, nonprofit organization, owned by major media organizations VG, Dagbladet, NRK, TV 2, Polaris Media, and Amedia.

Faktisk.no is Norway’s only fact-checking organization and is a member of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). It is editorially independent of its owners and follows the same ethical guidelines as the Norwegian press.

As an independent fact-checker of the public discourse, Faktisk.no aims to contribute to an open, inclusive, and fact-based public conversation and a constructive debate.

It has three main objectives: identify and debunk “fake news,” fact-check politicians, and help the public navigate social media.

To fact-check a statement, a team of journalists and researchers conduct a thorough analysis using journalistic methods in an open and transparent process. Certain criteria must be met. A statement must be relevant, controversial (someone is questioning it), frequently shared or referenced, and of public interest. The findings are then published online, regardless of conclusion.

Fact-checking statements made by elected officials holds them accountable and helps move the conversation forward in a constructive way.

For example, earlier this fall, Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (Center Party) stated that unemployment is at an all-time record low. This was concluded as “wrong” in an article published on the faktisk.no website.

Fact-checking goes beyond analyzing statements. Images and videos circulating online can also be “fake news.” An important part of the work of Faktisk.no is to investigate whether photos circulating online are, in fact, depicting what they claim to be. This is particularly crucial for reports from the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, as there are few journalists on the ground and propaganda is widespread.

As part of their mission to help the public navigate social media, Faktisk.no has partnered with Meta, participating in their “Meta Third-Party Fact-Checking Program.” For Norwegian Facebook users, this means that Faktisk.no may alert you when content you are interacting with has been fact checked.

Recognizing that it is impossible to check and flag all fake news, an important aspect of Faktisk.no’s work is to educate the public on how to investigate content on their own and be critical media consumers.

This is the main objective of their subdivision Tenk. Tenk (“think” in English) works with schools to increase media literacy and critical thinking among primary and secondary school students. By developing resources for teachers, parents, and other adults who work directly with children and youth, Tenk equips young people with tools to help them identify reliable sources of information and spot fake news.

As Norwegian children and young people use social media at an early age and often get their news via these channels, they are an important group to reach if Norway wants a future society of critical, savvy media consumers.

To reach that future, Faktisk.no has an important job to do. Fast-paced technological advancement and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence means that it is increasingly difficult for the average person to discern truth from fiction online.

In the current news landscape, flooded with horrific wars, political divisions, and devastating environmental disasters, we need more than ever to be able to filter out the truth. We need to come together and solve these problems.

In the words spoken by King Harald, we need a shared understanding of right and wrong, a society where we can trust one another and take care of one another.

In today’s world, we need organizations like Faktisk.no to help us get there.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Ragnhild Hjeltnes

Ragnhild Hjeltnes is assistant editor of The Norwegian American. Born and raised in Norway, she studied at Luther College in Iowa and at the University of Minnesota. She has worked at the consulate in Minneapolis for several years and now lives in New York with her family.