The nongovernmental organization Media Reforms Center is an educational platform, founded by Mohyla School of Journalism at National University of ‘KyivMohyla Academy’, which aims to implement high standards of journalism education in Ukraine, raise the level of media literacy, inform about the danger of propaganda and dissemination of fake information in the media. Since it was launched, MRC has been working on implementing western standards of journalism in Ukraine and raising the level of media literacy for different audiences, from students to journalists to members of public who want to consume media content in a critical and responsible way. In order to achieve this, we conduct fact checking workshops for journalists and journalism lecturers from Ukrainian universities, and train students, bloggers and civil activists from different regions of Ukraine and other countries. We keep abreast of the latest media trends and contribute to international media research. Our experts participate in international conferences and forums and speak at major discussions on key issues facing contemporary media on a regular basis.
The flagship project of our organization “StopFake” is currently well known to media professionals all over the world. Not only does it identify cases of fake information about events in Ukraine, but also actually initiated an international discussion on how to resist this shameful phenomenon.
Journalists, editors, IT specialists, translators, all those who cared about the future of Ukraine during this dangerous time of the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine joined the project.
Initially the goal of the project was to verify and refute disinformation and propaganda about events in Ukraine being circulated in the media. Eventually the project grew into an information hub where we examine and analyze all aspects of Kremlin propaganda.
We not only look at how propaganda influences Ukraine, we also try to investigate how propaganda impacts on other countries and regions, from the European Union to countries which once made up the Soviet Union.
Our team of media professionals is constantly growing. Today we fact-check, de-bunk, edit, translate, research and disseminate information in 13 languages: Ukrainian, Russian, English, Spanish, Serbian, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Czech, German and Polish, Bulgarian.
Our content is available on our site, our video digests are broadcast online and on local Ukrainian television stations; our radio podcasts are also available online and on social media sites. We also publish ‘Your Right to Know’ newspaper for Donbas.
Stopfake.org is not supported financially or otherwise by any official Ukrainian organization or government agency. We are a journalists’ organization whose primary goal is to verify information, raise media literacy in Ukraine and establish a clear red line between journalism and propaganda.
We strive to achieve our goal not only through refuting fakes but also through creating a propaganda archive and data base, analyzing and verifying information, training various media stakeholders to identify fakes and participating in conferences and seminars on journalistic integrity and fact-checking.
Launched as a volunteer project, StopFake.org has been able to continue its important work thanks to the generosity of crowdfunding and contributions from our readers. Stopfake was also supported by the international Renaissance Foundation, the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, the Embassy of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Ukraine and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.
The StopFake Team:
Viktoriia Romaniuk (Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Ukrainian TV Digest Producer)
Ruslan Deynychenko (Executive Director, Russian TV Digest Producer)
Yurii Panin (Technical Director)
Dasha Orlova (Head of Research)
Mauro Voerzio, Bogdan Borodiichuk, Vadim Heshel, Sonia Dymytrova-Martyniuk, Kira Zalytok, Nataliia Kucheriava, Alina Mosendz, Oleksiy Nabozhnyak, Oksana Pinsker, Oksana Poluliakh, Mykhailo Purish, Margo Gontar, Irena Chalupa, Anna Chornous, Olena Churanova, Olga Yurkova, Oleksiy Ladyka, Alla Radnyuk, Patrik Felčer, Nadiya Balovsyak, Pawel Bobolowicz, Wojtek Pokora, Wojciech Mucha, Olena Semeniuk, Sofia Kochmar-Tymoshenko and Galyna Schimansky-Geier and our active and vigilant readers-debunkers.
We are very grateful to our colleagues who at different stages helped to create and develop StopFake.
Selection of information
In order to identify false or questionable information, our team members conduct
regular monitoring of messages from mainly traditional and online media but also occasionally from social networks.
Signs of false content:
- emotional coverage;
- no hard facts or data used;
- one-sided coverage, lack of balance of opinions;
- lack of supportive evidence, no references to real witnesses or credible sources, absence of photo- or video evidence;
- a questionable outlet(s) that disseminates information;
- the anonymity or questionable authorship of the story published;
- signs of digital manipulation of visual content (photos, videos).
Information is verified by:
- searching for confirmation in open sources;
- looking for possible witnesses;
- requesting clarification from officials (where suitable);
- inquiring experts in highly specialized topics that might be manipulated (medicine, finances, technology, science, etc.).
- analyzing platforms where material in question is published (sites, accounts on social networks – when created, by whom, who finances it);
- researching information about author(s) of publication;
- analyzing photo and video if available.
After all related facts have been verified, opinions from mentioned institutions, officials, external experts and testimonies from witness(s) received, an examination of photo and video content performed, StopFake comes up with a verdict.
Depending on results received, StopFake gives two types of verdict – Fake or Manipulation.
Fake is a “deception-information” report that was intentionally altered and is based on distorted facts or is fictitious.
Manipulation is partially truthful information presented in such a way as to push the audience to make wrong conclusions.
First of all, our fact-checkers use common sense and skepticism. When analyzing the text, Google can be used to check the origin of the news. Also Who.is can be used to check on who registered the domain of the site that disseminates news in question. Web.archive.org can help to verify if the article has been altered. To verify photos, the StopFake team uses Google Reverse Image Search, TinEye, FotoForencics, RevEye, Exif.regex.info, etc. For video verification we usually use Youtube DataViewer & InVid.
Ethics and Standards
StopFake team was among the first to adapt already existing fact-cheking principles to tackle disinformatin and build resilience against disinformation through what we call MAD (monitoring, archiving and debunking).
In last 5 years StopFake has accumulated a wealth of experience, collecting examples of Russian disinformation, mapping the distribution ecosystem of disinformation and its impact on Ukrainian audiences.
We selected ‘fake news’ coming from Russian mainstream media as a main focus for our fact-checking activity. According to UNESCO definition, ‘news’ means “verifiable information in the public interest, and information that does not meet these standards does not deserve the label of news. In this sense then, ‘fake news’ is an oxymoron which lends itself to undermining the credibility of information which does indeed meet the threshold of verifiability and public interest – i.e. real news.”
As a project created by Mohyla school of journalism at National University of ‘Kyiv-Mohyla academy’ – the leading journalism education instution in Ukraine, we operate as independent non-partisan project that is not currently affiliated with Ukrainian government or any other government.
Our editorial policy is based on international principles of professional ethics in journalism, including the right to true information.
As Geneva Overholser, former Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, wrote that ‘with objectivity no longer the byword, transparency and accountability become ever more important – transparency of intent and also of procedure’.
Our intent is to fight Russian disinformation by debunking it and to educate people about real news vs fake news and how to build informational resilience.
In order to internationalize our efforts 2016 Stopfake.org joined First Draft as a Core Partner. First Draft is a global network of media organizations that are collaborating to improve quality of online journalism.
The International Renaissance Foundation,
The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic,
The Embassy of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Ukraine (2015-2019)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office (2015-2019)
The Sigrid Rausing Trust.
We invite all of you to join us and support our work.
If you spot fake information, send it to us for a truth autopsy at [email protected].
Here is a link to our detailed 2016-2017 Report (in Ukrainian and English):
Here is a link to our detailed 2018-2019 report (in Ukrainian):StopFake 2018-9