Through a combination of capacity building, communications and advocacy support, and digital innovation, this project seeks to increase the use of locally-driven fact-checked news media by the public and policy makers across the MENA region. The project equally equips fact-checkers to claim their seat at the table in debates about how to define what constitutes harmful or otherwise censorable content online.
The fact-checking role of journalists is a critical component of a robust media environment. Yet, across the MENA region, the ability of fact-checking entities to effectively monitor and counter malignant information online is low, while the power to define what constitutes harmful or otherwise censorable content online is highly concentrated in the hands of ill-informed technology companies and heavy-handed state actors. This concentration of power has left a clear democratic deficit in relation to if, when, how, why and by whom online speech should be moderated. This poses a threat to the long-term prospects of pluralistic, rights-based and cohesive societies taking root in the region. The recent formation of the Arab Fact-Checkers Network (AFCN), a coalition of local and regional fact-checking entities, an ideal opportunity to start redressing these imbalances and empower local civil society.