Interview with Checkdesk

Checkdesk is an open source toolkit for curating, verifying and publishing user generated content (UGC) online. Checkdesk allows journalists and editors to open the verification process and engage their readership in the reporting and fact-checking process.


What are the problems you aim to solve? 

How can I verify this? That’s the constant refrain of journalists covering fast-moving stories online. Faced with a barrage of videos, tweets and photos from myriad sources, how do you know what’s true? Misinformation spreads like wildfire. Think Sandy, Boston, Syria. Sometimes even trusted news organizations spread it. How can you avoid the trap? Checkdesk can help you.

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What is your solution? 

Checkdesk gives journalists the tools they need to investigate pieces of online media: Journalists can quickly gather and add links to the system and start working either within their newsroom, or in collaboration with their readership community. Once a link (a “Report”) has been added, journalists can add annotations, corroborating links, and questions about that Report. By enabling journalists to document each step of the process, Checkdesk brings transparency and structure to the verification process. Journalists can assign statuses to Reports: a clear visual indicator of whether a piece of media has been Verified, proven False, or is In Progress.


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List 3 reasons why you are better than your competitors. 

Checkdesk helps newsrooms keep verification “in house”: Learning how to verify online content is a vital skill for journalists as the volume of newsworthy UGC continues to grow rapidly. “Statuses” support safe sharing of unverified content: Sharing unverified content publically can be risky and dangerous - even if couched in disclaimers. Checkdesk Statuses give a clear visual indicator of the extent to which a link has been verified. Checkdesk allows newsrooms to engage communities in a new and meaningful way: by encouraging collaboration in the verification process, newsrooms can benefit from the expertise of their readers and foster deeper engagement. 

What is your business model? 

To date, Checkdesk has been supported by international donors (Sida, Arab Partnerships Participation Fund) and international awards (Winners - International Press Institute’s News Innovation Challenge, 2012; Knight News Challenge (Prototype Fund), 2014). In future, we will develop enhanced premium features that will require organizational subscription, and we will offer customized versions of the toolkit to paying clients. A version of Checkdesk will remain open source and accessible via GitHub. 

What are the next steps for Checkdesk?

Checkdesk (available in both English and Arabic) is currently being used by independent newsrooms around the world, and we’re working closely with them to develop new features. Major goals we’re working on include translation (close integration with social media translation tools), accessibility (single login version of the platform so journalists can use Checkdesk without having to install the code) and mobile (supporting micro-tasking via a mobile version of the Checkdesk interface). 


Columbia Journalism Review: Watch out for Bellingcat

DNA India: Checkdesk: Verifying information filtered through social media in the digital age 

Your Middle East: Checkdesk: Arabic live blog breaking new ground in MENA