REPORTS

The 4th BAIRAL Research Meeting for 2020 Report on “Differences between a web news company and a newspaper and fact-checking in news production processes”

Hiroki Kato (Research Assistant of the B’AI Global Forum)

Date: March 24, 2021
Location: Online (Zoom)
Moderator: Hiroki Kato

On March 24th, 2021, BAIRAL (a study group organized by research assistants of the B’AI Global Forum) held its fourth meeting online. The guest speaker was Kota Hatachi, who works as a reporter for a web news company called BuzzFeed JAPAN since 2016 after working for the Asahi Shimbun for four years. He gave us a brief presentation on his career, the dissemination processes of suspicious claims on the Internet, and his activities of fact-checking. This was followed by participants asking and discussing related topics.

 

Mr. Hatachi specializes in topics such as US military bases in Okinawa, hate speech, and war experiences, and is also known for his proactive fact-checking of doubtful discourses on social media. He first elucidated how suspicious statements are disseminated in online spaces and insisted on the importance of certain types of platform including content aggregating (matome) sites, trend blogs, and YouTube. Based on his interviews with those who posted doubtful statements on these platforms, it was revealed that capitalistic mechanisms in the sites motivated people to upload information quickly to draw attention without checking whether it was accurate or considering whether it may be inflammatory. It is important to note that, compared with the U.S., the major backdrop of doubtful claims in Japan is not ideology or political beliefs but economic incentives. He then explained the processes of fact-checking and described how difficult it is to collect suspicious information and confirm the fact especially in photo- and video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

 

In the discussion part, participants posed questions about the features of discursive environment on social media and mass media in Japan, the ways that fact-checking works beneficially, and the roles that platformers should take on. In this session, it was confirmed that since innumerable doubtful claims quickly spread and reach a wide range of audiences especially in elections and disasters, it is necessary for a variety of actors such as journalists, nonprofit organizations, and platformers to cooperate and build a system to prevent the spread of doubtful discourses. Platformers particularly seem to be able to play important roles to remove the origin of suspicious statements by regulating online advertising and facilitate fact-checking by, for example, promoting reports by fact checkers. Although, as discussed here, we need to quickly construct mechanisms to tackle the problems of inaccurate information which already exist, it is also required of further deliberative and inclusive discussion about the issue such as what a fact is and how it should be verified or determined. It is essential to facilitate these efforts as a pair of wheels.