OpIndia a Fact-Checking Website? Nope, Says International Fact-Checking Network
“Data is rarely used, and then only to counter data claims made by political or other organisations," the Network noted.
“Often, ‘fake news’ is confined to the narrow definition of viral photos which might be morphed or outright lies by politicians. However, at OpIndia, we believe that while outright lies need to be fact-checked, half facts being presented and misinterpretation of facts also need to be countered equally vociferously.”
OpIndia — a right-leaning digital news portal — claims to be a pioneer in “fact-checking” in India. But does such a claim have any inherent worth?
The International Fact-Checking Network (part of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit school for journalism located in St Petersburg, Florida) rejects this claim.
Some background. As per its website, The IFCN was launched in September 2015 to support “a booming crop of fact-checking initiatives” by promoting best practices and exchanges in this field. It monitors trends, formats and policy-making about fact-checking worldwide, helps surface common positions among the world’s fact-checkers, promotes basic standards through the fact-checkers’ code of principles and projects to track the impact of fact-checking and funds annual fellowships, an innovation grant and a crowdfunding match program.
OpIndia CEO Rahul Roushan had applied for an IFCN certification. Assessed by Kanchan Kaur of IFCN, however, it became apparent that the website did not meet its code of principles.
As per Kaur, “Though the fact checks cover a variety of subjects, they do concentrate on a certain political organisation or organisations with a certain ideology. Of the ten fact-checks given as examples, nearly all are focused on trying to disprove information put out by a certain political party or by organisations that are seemingly inclined toward that political party.”
Kaur, in her assessment, added that the samples provided to the IFCN by OpIndia “have writing that indicates that an opposition party is either behind it or is taking advantage of it. Its method in reaching or presenting its conclusions presents evidence of potential bias.”
The IFCN assessment further adds that while OpIndia did not officially endorse any political group and even a stated a non-partisanship policy, their work indicated otherwise. “In the page where the website invites contributions from readers, it clearly indicates its bias. I quote from the website: ‘We won’t entertain the usual left-liberal narrative’,” Kaur wrote.
“More often than not, the evidence that is used is usually from speeches made by political parties or the government, which are merely countering the claims. Data is rarely used, and then only to counter data claims made by political or other organisations,” the report noted, adding, “Additionally, most claims are countered by making disparaging comments (for instance, calling the portals ‘habitual offender and regularly publishes fake stories’) about the organisations that published the claim, or by quoting someone with little credibility who generally agrees with their point of view.”
Furthermore, the IFNC noted that while OpIndia listed its owner, it offered no further details on funding.
OpIndia also lacks a clear corrections policy, the IFCN observed: “Of the two examples provided of corrections, one has a note at the end that they had published a satirical article, but it does not indicate that the article under contention is the one under which the note is published. Also, the article is quite replete with deprecating names for people mentioned in the article and quotes anonymous sources. The other example, too, indicates that a political party that just won the elections in Rajasthan is behind the incident.”
OpIndia may claim that it “brings you reports and narrative from a perspective often ignored or suppressed by the mainstream media of India,” but what it cannot claim is non-partisan and unbiased fact-checking.