Journalists Team Up to Uncover Who's Funding Disinformation

By: Sharon Moshavi | 05/16/2023

Journalists today not only need to know how to spot disinformation. They need to know how to find the source of it. But uncovering the people and money behind the falsehoods – designed to undermine democracy and seed instability – takes a lot of work. More and more, it also requires following the money across borders. That’s why teaming up is critical.

Through ICFJ’s Disarming Disinformation initiative, teams of reporters, editors and researchers from 11 countries – working with 25 partners – are pursuing and publishing hard-hitting investigations to reveal the people and groups financing disinformation in the Americas. 

With funding support, the teams are investigating, among other topics:

  • Who finances disinformation targeting Latin American migrants seeking to cross the U.S. border, led by Verificado MX in Mexico in partnership with The Associated Press (U.S.), Conexión Migrante (U.S.), PolitiFact (U.S), Proceso (Mexico) and the Institute for Security and Democracy (Mexico)
  • What groups were behind the Jan. 8, 2023, attack on Brazil’s Supreme Court, Congress, and Palace of Government, led by U.S.-based Palver in partnership with Agência Lupa (Brazil) and TelevisaUnivision (U.S.)
  • Whether organizations in the U.S. are funding disinformation around gender issues such as abortion, gender identity and sex education in Latin America, led by Chequeado in Argentina in partnership with La Silla Vacía (Colombia), Ojo Público (Peru), Ocote (Guatemala), El Surti (Paraguay) and KUT/NPR (U.S.)

The lead investigators for each project came together recently in Austin, Texas, for an intensive 48-hour “Investigathon.” There, with support from mentors, they learned new tools, explored public datasets and reviewed safety measures. Eight of 19 reporting teams were selected to receive funding.

Maria Ramirez Uribe, a participant from PolitiFact in the U.S., said the experience allowed her to step away from day-to-day fact-checking work and “take a broader look at how disinformation is affecting so many different communities around the world.” Pablo Fernández, with Chequeado in Argentina, said it was hugely beneficial to learn tools and strategies for tracking money in the U.S. – something his team had little experience with previously.

The reporting projects are part of the Disarming Disinformation initiative, a three-year global program run by ICFJ with lead funding from the Scripps Howard Foundation, an affiliate organization of the Scripps Howard Fund, which supports The E.W. Scripps Company’s charitable efforts. The three-year project will empower journalists and journalism students to fight disinformation. The Serrapilheira Institute also supported five of the projects investigating who funds disinformation in Brazil on scientific topics.

This is just one of the ways ICFJ supports collaborative reporting across borders, connecting journalists across our vast global network. In the face of seismic challenges like disinformation, these efforts are more vital than ever.

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