Tell Me the Truth: Fact-Checkers in an Age of Epistemic Instability

Navn på bevillingshaver

Mette Bengtsson


University of Copenhagen


DKK 3,999,768




Semper Ardens: Accelerate


The TMT-project is about fact-checking and how to improve this practice. When talking about today's epistemic instability, a common way to address this has been by speaking of 'post-truth'. The TMT-project takes another approach by understanding the establishment of facts as a fundamentally rhetorical practice where people argue for and try to gain support for their ways of understanding realities. The project highlights that this happens in a world where traditional authorities and institutions are severely challenged, and, at the same time, the rise of social media, algorithms, and AI is reshaping media and politics. In this, fact-checkers unquestionably play a central role - not as objective truth-tellers but as weighing evaluators in an integrated part of the argumentative process.


The TMT-project challenges a positivistic understanding of knowledge and adds to the existing research by understanding the establishment of facts as a rhetorical practice. Furthermore, no one has yet investigated the journalistic practices around fact-checking through field studies and text analysis to get insights into the concrete manifestations of the journalistic fact-checking practice and the journalistic role perception. For example, how journalists get ideas for and decide among different facts to 'check', how journalists research facts (often most likely deviating from the official explanations), how sources are found and selected, and what considerations and choices are made in the journalistic writing process.


The TMT-project consists of four subprojects that are individually delimited but closely related. The first subproject determines the underlying epistemic understandings of the fact-checking practice. The second subproject analyses and discusses the journalistic fact-checking practice to gain insights into the practice and the role of the fact-checker. The third subproject takes a comparative perspective on fact-checking in countries with different media systems. The fourth and last subproject investigates the experience of being fact-checked. The four ways of approaching the fact-checking practice will contribute to a better understanding of the practice and be a way to suggest improvements and guidelines.

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