Fact checking the rumours spread on social media

Have your heard the news? Digital media make it easier to spread rumours fast. Keystone

For the last two years, has been involved in a collaborative project to help journalists tackle one of the biggest challenges of working in the digital age: how to make sure the information they are gathering from online sources can be trusted. 

This content was published on June 8, 2016 minutes

True or false, viral stories circulate quickly on the internet, much faster than journalists are able to verify them. This European-Union-funded projectExternal link - named Pheme after the Greek goddess of fame and rumours - is developing a tool to speed up verification. It will do this by automatically pulling up questionable claims on social platforms like Twitter, and giving an estimate of their veracity. has been involved from the start of the project to not only help developers understand the needs of journalists, but also to identify claims that can be used to develop algorithms. We have spent several months tracking news stories online, analysing tweets for rumours and checking if claims turned out to be true or false.

One such story, which was also the subject of coverage at the time, revolved around the collection of artworks bequeathed to the Kunstmuseum Bern by Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer in Germany. Rumours that the museum was planning to accept the controversial collection, which allegedly include works looted by the Nazis, circulated on Twitter and in the news media and even prompted the museum to take to social media to deny it was true.

With the project drawing to a close at the end of 2016, we are now working closely with partners to evaluate and fine tune a tool that we hope will make a real difference in journalists’ ability to identify and verify online claims.

Have you ever read a story on social media that turned out to be false? How did you find out the truth?

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?