Today everyone is exposed to new media tools and diverse information channels, making it very difficult for them to distinguish between true and false news. During any crisis, and as it was demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, this situation becomes more difficult. Other factors such as political intervention, lack of critical thinking and of digital literacy also play into this.
Teyit, a civil society organisation in Turkey, has made an effort to work on the challenge of the lack of critical thinking practices and of media literacy in a variety of ways. The key activities that Teyit has undertaken are fact-checking viral news, sharing tools, sources used in the process, and insights on issues at hand.
Teyit is part of the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance – a database that collects false information found by fact-checkers in more than 70 countries and has papers written in 40 languages. Teyit has done fact-checking for more than 100 (one hundred) information sources, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a partner of large activities organised in Turkey to counter it, such as Coronathon and Hack the Crisis. It also introduced new techniques in video editing that were used in the “1 New Message” video, referring to the voicemails and texts in WhatsApp and requests to be forwarded to contacts.
At the beginning of March, Teyit launched a newsletter called “COVID-19 Post”. This newsletter has been published and distributed three days a week and contains verified information on the COVID-19 agenda. Built as civic engagement tool, the newsletter encourages its members to preserve discipline, common-sense, resilience, and unity, engaging them directly in the process.
“Our intention was to provide reliable information in a manner that is sincere, simple, and constructive. We have prioritized scientific discoveries and reports that offer a broader perspective. While building style and character, we preferred “distanced friendliness”. We have put great efforts into making a positive and empowering narrative, offering a global viewpoint, inviting strength and resilience” said Nilgün Yılmaz, Editor of the COVID-19 Post.
In addition to the newsletter, which reached more than 12,000 subscribers in a very short time, Teyit is producing a series of videos with the same title as the newsletter, being broadcasted on Habertürk TV, one of the largest broadcasters in Turkey and a webinar series. The webinars provide information on environment, digital security, digital minimalism, storytelling and media sociology. The work of Teyit is supported by the European Union.
“I think the misinformation flow has decreased because people are being convinced that only science and facts can save us”, said Ekin Aytaç, a subscriber of COVID-19 Newsletter.
Teyit is an independent fact-checking civil society organisation in Turkey focusing on social impact. They provide fact-checking workshops and contribute to publications aiming at raising awareness about the importance of public access to factual information.