Ukrainian journalism student project: Stopfake.org

For more than a decade, I’ve been informally studying how folklore, rumors & urban myths interfere with development/aid/relief efforts, and government initiatives, & how these are overcome. I’m so fascinated with the subject that it was almost my Master’s degree these once-upon-a-time – but I couldn’t find enough people to go on-the-record in interviews.

I have longed for myth-busting sites like snopes.com or Straight Dope column by Cecil Adams in the USA to be created for developing and transitional countries (as well as home-grown versions of the show “MythBusters“), in local languages. I dream of winning the lottery just so I can fund such initiatives in various countries.

Imagine my thrill to discover this week that there IS such a thing in Ukraine! Fact-checking website Stopfake.org was launched on March 2, 2014 by alumni and students of Mohyla School of Journalism and of the Digital Future of Journalism professional program. “The main purpose of this community is to check facts, verify information, and refute distorted information and propaganda about events in Ukraine covered in the media,” according to the web site. The site is in both English and Russian.

It’s an all-volunteer site (and that includes ONLINE volunteers / virtual volunteering), verifying information, finding and translating and researching stories, etc. Though the site is meant to fact-check anti-Ukrainian bias in media, there are some articles that debunk pro-Ukrainian stories as well. What I particularly love is the article How to Identify a Fake.

I hope that, once the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has become non-violent and not quite so threatening and vitriolic, the focus of the Stopfake.org site can move to more every-day myths that float around Ukraine – about HIV/AIDS, or about Islamic or Jewish religions/culture, for instance. Such myths can have serious, even deadly, consequences.

I also hope the site will start being updated again in English soon – as of the time of this blog’s writing, it hasn’t been updated in English since the end of August. I wonder if this program would qualify to use the UN’s Online Volunteering service to find online volunteers to translate articles from Russian to English… I certainly consider debunking rumors as an essential part of development and aid work

If you know of a similar myth-debunking site in countries other than the USA, please note such in the comments section on my blog.

And for a good source of information about the conflict in Ukraine, from a variety of sources (news, NGOs, UN agencies, etc.), my go-to site is ReliefWeb’s Ukraine site.

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