Separating wheat from chaff in Hyderabad

Working on claims of the Centre’s ‘48 Months of Transforming India’, electoral bonds, publishing easy-to-understand explainer videos on consumer rights – Factly does all this and more.

Published: 11th July 2019 09:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2019 01:38 PM   |  A+A-

Rakesh Dubbudu with his team

Rakesh Dubbudu with his team (Photo| EPS/ S Senbagapandiyan)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Today, we are being bombarded by information left, right and centre. In many cases, apart from mainstream media sources, most of the news and snippets we read online have a clear goal of shaping our perspective towards a particular ideology and agenda. So how do we differentiate between news that speak the truth and others that blatantly mislead readers and viewers?

There is one such organisation in our city that works on showcasing the truth amongst the myriad allegations floating around the web. Founded by 35-year-old Rakesh Dubbudu, Factly is a public information portal working on government data and fact-checking. Recently, Factly has been selected by Facebook as one of its fact-checking partners in India. We speak to Rakesh about his journey:

When was Factly founded? What was its inspiration?

Factly was born out of my own life experience. I graduated from NIT Warangal in 2005. Since then, I have been active in the transparency space. I went to US on a ‘Professional Fellows Program’ of the US Department of State in 2014, where I interacted with like-minded individuals who were working on similar aspects. In 2015, I founded Factly along with Shashi Kiran, who is based in US and looks after technology. Government data,  even if accessible, is in a format which people do not understand. That was the reason for creating Factly. In 2016, we started our full-fledged operations.

On what criteria do you choose the claims to fact check?

In some cases, we pursue claims sent by the public. We check the claim’s probability to go viral by their shares, and its potential to harm the reputation of an individual or group.

Are there any specific sources that you check?

We go through government department websites for claims and verify them. In checking the authenticity, there are two aspects. One is debunking, where you come across a viral post or video, and check its authenticity. Another is fact-checking, where we test if a claim is right or wrong.

How does your partnership with Facebook work?

We are an official third party fact checker for Facebook. We deal with content in English and Telugu. As part of the partnership, we rate content on Facebook that is false or half-true with a relevant rating and an article to go with it. Whenever a piece of content is rated as false or half-true, its distribution goes down.

What are your sources of income?

We have a commercial partnership with Facebook. We also have recently received a ‘Global Innovation’ grant from YouTube. We also facilitate trainings on data journalism.

Is the fact-checking business self-sustainable? Do you foresee threat from AI?

We have newer forms of technology platforms by the day. Technology, however advanced it may be, cannot detect fake news by itself, which is becoming more sophisticated and subtle by the day. A human element is required.

What are your future plans?

In the next few months, we are planning to launch a data portal for journalists, where they can get a complete ‘package’ on current issues involving data and analysis. We are also working on a publishing platform for fact checkers.

Rating for claims

True: If it is factually correct
Partly true: If half of the claim is true
Misleading: If part of it is right,but used in a different context
Unverified:A claim that has no data to be verified
False: Something which is completely wrong

The writer can be contacted at shyam@newindianexpress.com
Twitter- @shyamyadagiri

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