Cofacts is an open-source, citizen-driven, collaborative fact-checking platform in Taiwan that aims to combat disinformation and fake news. Its overarching goal is to encourage citizens to uphold freedom of speech and prevent the spread of false information about critical issues, such as health, financial fraud, and family law. Fact-checking creates room for diverse voices and positive exchanges. Cofacts tools empower the general public to decipher news and prevent the spread of misinformation. Started by volunteers and program developers, this initiative leverages diverse skill sets in content editing, research, and programming to build contemporary educational campaigns that advance media literacy. Cofacts relies on crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and local partnerships. The initiative was started with the help of the g0v.tw Civic Tech grant, a Taiwanese civic technology community. Cofacts is also part of a joint initiative of the Open Culture Foundation, which is an open-source community providing organizational support, consulting services, and financial backing to Taiwanese social impact initiatives. The Open Culture Foundation also facilitates crowdfunding for Cofacts, allowing individuals to donate and directly support Cofacts’ editorial gatherings, media literacy programs, and operating costs related to the platform.
Theory of Change
Crowdsourced fact-checking tools and media literacy education empower citizen participation in upholding freedom of speech and mitigating disinformation to advance transparent and accurate dissemination of information.
Cofacts emphasizes the importance of sharing fact-checking data, programming, and technical support across communities and consequently operates its information-checking platform through crowd collaboration and a chatbot. Cofacts’ chatbot can be integrated with LINE, the most popular messaging application in Taiwan, making it easy for individuals and organizations to verify information and investigate suspicious messages. To enable the platform’s successful operation, Cofacts’ activities focus on technical support and outreach. The program development and database maintenance section is responsible for improving the chatbot which analyzes complex information. Volunteer engineers and developers conduct system and hardware maintenance for the chatbot, and since 2017, Cofacts has regularly held developer conferences to advance collaboration on the technical end. The editorial gathering and verification volunteer team organizes six gatherings per year, enabling individuals to participate in programs and learn how to identify false new items. Participants can then volunteer at Cofacts to review responses on online news threads. Cofacts also hosts media literacy lectures and training sessions for the public, particularly older adults who tend to be the primary targets of fake news and phishing campaigns.
The first initiative of its kind in Taiwan, Cofacts has also grown to become the largest fact-checking community in Taiwan. It has over 2,000 volunteering editors that contribute to fact-checking replies to the platform, debunking over 87,000 suspicious articles. More than 300,000 people use the chatbot tool, and Cofacts receives an average of over 650 new messages weekly. Cofacts’ third-party chatbots have received hundreds of millions of hits annually. The aggregated data of timestamped reports help identify networks of suspicious information and anticipate where false news is spread. Data verification tools developed by Cofacts are open, available, and used by dozens of think tanks, researchers, and investigative journalists, as well as the general public. The methodology has been replicated and applied in diverse contexts, like in Thailand where the open-source code was used to develop a similar chatbot initiative to combat false messaging. In the future, Cofacts aims to increase multi-media fact-checking features.