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Disinformation and Fact-Checking in Times of COVID-19: Register now for Knight Center’s new free online course

As the world approaches 100 million cases of COVID-19 and surpasses 2 million deaths from the coronavirus worldwide, the Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin and UNESCO are announcing an online training initiative to combat the other disease that is further aggravating the pandemic: the “disinfodemic.”

The MOOC (massive open online course) “Disinformation & Fact-Checking in Times of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean” will be taught in Spanish, Portuguese and Guaraní from Feb. 15 to March 14, 2021 on the Knight Center’s online learning platform. Register today!

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The course has been prepared for journalists and communicators in general from the Western Hemisphere, but it is open to anyone interested in combating the wave of misinformation and disinformation that has spread during the pandemic.

“2020 was surely the most important year for the fact-checking community,” said journalist Cristina Tardáguila, who will be the course instructor and has been involved in global initiatives against disinformation, as associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).

This Knight Center course is produced under the project “#CoronavirusFacts, Addressing the ‘Disinfodemic’ on COVID-19,” which is implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union.

This program is part of a global effort to combat disinformation, like the #CoronavirusFacts Alliance, led by the IFCN at the Poynter Institute and coordinated by Tardáguila. The alliance unites 99 organizations in 43 countries working in 77 languages and 16 different time zones to check information about the pandemic.

"UNESCO works to address the causes and consequences of disinformation as part of its mandate to promote the rights of access to information and freedom of expression. And therefore, it is not only important for us to offer tools and resources that can empower journalists, communication workers, content creators and others who are at the forefront of countering the phenomenon of disinformation related to the pandemic, but also, to strengthen and highlight some of the excellent work carried out by fact-checking experts and organizations in the region,” said Sandra Sharman, Project Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean, '#CoronavirusFacts - Addressing' disinformation about COVID-19'.

We are also proud to be the first to offer a MOOC of this kind in Guaraní, one of the most widely spoken Indigenous languages of the region, fostering inclusivity in this critical time," Sharman said.

This is the first time that the Knight Center has offered a course in an indigenous language of a Latin American country. Guaraní is spoken by most of the population of Paraguay. and also  in neighboring areas of Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.

In the four-week Knight Center course, “Disinformation & Fact-Checking in Times of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean,” students will:

  1. Look at the history of fact-checking and the IFCN and be introduced to example of fact-checking organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean
  2. Learn how to start a fact-checking unit, including creating a methodology and being transparent
  3. Be exposed to basic tools used by fact-checkers, with a specific look at the pandemic and election contexts
  4. Get an overview of regulation around the world used to stop or reduce the spread of mis/disinformation

“This innovative course will provide journalists with timely skills and resources, as well as built-in peer to peer learning community where they can interact with the course instructor and other students,” said Mallary Tenore, associate director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “We’re happy to be offering this course in three languages, including Guarani, in hopes of making it as accessible as possible in Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond. We’re grateful for UNESCO’s support and for the chance to work with Cristina Tardáguila, who is one of the leading experts in the field.”

In addition to being associate director of the IFCN, Tardáguila is the founder of Brazilian fact-checking initiative Agência Lupa. She worked for Brazilian outlets including newspapers O Globo and Folha de S. Paulo, as well as magazine piauí. She is the author of “A Arte do Descaso” (in 2016), about art crimes - and “Você foi Enganado” (2018), about presidential false claims. She is the winner of the 2018 elPeriodico award for best journalist of the year and has been nominated for the Gabriel García Márquez Award and the Comunique-se Awards in the innovation categories.

This course was designed for journalists, reporters, editors, photographers, designers, advertisers, communication students and media researchers. Students will use Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets and may need to login to social media platforms.

“Anyone can become a fact-checker. That’s the main idea we need to spread,” Tardáguila said.

During the course, students will view video lectures, as well as readings and handouts. They will also participate in discussion forums and take weekly quizzes.

Those who successfully complete the weekly quizzes and participate in discussion forums are eligible to earn a certificate of participation at the end of the course. The administrative fee for the certificate is US $30. It is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and attests to participation in the course. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate.

Like all Knight Center courses, this MOOC is asynchronous, meaning you can complete the activities at your own pace and at the times that best suit your schedule. There are recommended deadlines, however, so you don’t fall behind.

Join the global fight against the disinfodumic and register for this course today!

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