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Crowdfunding for Nieuwscheckers a huge success: ‘Fact checking matters more than ever’

Nieuwscheckers, the fact-checking initiative at Leiden University, will check the claims made by politicians during the European elections. Lots of individuals and organisations supported their crowdfunding campaign. ‘During the elections, it’s hugely important that the emphasis is on facts, and that made-up or fake stories don’t gain the upper hand.’

The polls open on 23 May in the Netherlands for the elections to the European Parliament. Nieuwscheckers wants to fact check the claims that politicians make in the run-up to election day. They therefore started a campaign on the Crowdfunding for Leiden University platform.

They wanted to have raised the money by 2 April, International Fact Check Day, but had already reached the target sum some days before. Fake-news researcher Peter Burger, who set up Nieuwscheckers ten years ago together with his fellow researcher Alexander Pleijter, is pleased with the result. ‘We immediately hired our first member of staff, who set to work straight away.’

Donor responses

A great many people and organisations donated to the project. Some of them left a reply. ‘Factual reporting is and always will be essential, as is checking any claims that are made. Even if facts don’t appear to matter,’ writes one anonymous donor.

Says another, ‘During the elections, it’s hugely important that the emphasis is on facts, and that made-up or fake stories don’t gain the upper hand.

Support from media organisations

What is surprising is that media organisations are also among the donors. Ad Valvas, for instance, the independent newspaper of VU Amsterdam, supported the initiative with a donation. And Villamedia, an online platform about journalism, also contributed. ‘The European elections deserve to be checked. Any serious attempt to do so is more than welcome.’

Straight to work

The Nieuwscheckers set to work straight away, says Burger. ‘Our first member of staff has already begun and the second one will start soon. We are now looking hard for an experienced factchecker or journalist to join the project.’ The factchecking has already begun: Burger was working with a number of European collegues before the crowdfunding campaign ended on a fact check of the UN Pact on Migration. ‘In our project, we are going to try as much as possible to work together with colleagues in the rest of Europe. As we all know, news reports and rumours don’t care about borders.’

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