'A community of factfluencers.'

Two women have founded a startup called Facts for Friends aimed at giving people tools to combat disinformation.

Facts for Friends founders Klimkeit and Scholz
Facts for Friends founders Klimkeit and Scholz Jerome Gerull

Katharina Klimkeit and Valerie Scholz are combatting disinformation in the digital world with 'FactSnacks'. Their 'Facts for Friends' website summarizes often lengthy fact checks by established fact checkers for a wide audience. Co-founder Valerie Scholz talks about the origins of the startup and the idea behind it.

Valerie Scholz
Valerie Scholz Jerome Gerull

Ms Scholz, how did the idea for Facts for Friends come about?
We developed it at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic at the Federal Government's #WirVsVirus hackathon. A group session on disinformation resulted in the first version of the Facts for Friends platform. Afterwards, my co-founder Katharina and I thought we really had to continue with it. That's how a small weekend project turned into a social startup. Since then, we've continued expanding the platform and are introducing new formats on Instagram and TikTok, for example.

You want to revolutionize the concept of fact-checking with your service. What's unusual about your idea?
Fact checking has been around for a long time; every good journalistic editorial team does it. The problem is that it doesn't reach many people on social media. We see ourselves as a bridge between the major fact-checking organizations and the users. The texts are often two to three pages long, so we translate them into new formats and short 'snacks'. At the same time, however, the original source can always be found with a single click.

How successful are your services in the meantime?
One way of measuring success is to count the number of clicks and followers. On TikTok, for example, our videos regularly top 100,000 views, in some cases as many as 400,000. That's good for this kind of informative but rather dry content. A particular success for us is that we have now built a community of factfluencers who take a stand against misinformation.

We particularly try to reach people who are uncertain.

Journalist and fact-checking expert Valerie Scholz

Who is Facts for Friends aimed at?
We particularly try to reach people who are uncertain. We want to give them information with as low a threshold as possible. Radical groups, on the other hand, are definitely not a target group for our services; that's a waste of effort. People like that can't be brought back to reality with facts.

How fundamentally important is fact checking in combatting disinformation?
It's a tool but certainly not the only solution. I think strengthening people's media literacy overall is more important. Another major problem lies in the general erosion of trust in the media or institutions.

You can learn more about the Facts for Friends site here (German only).

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