France 24 - Les Observateurs

Organization: France 24 - Les Observateurs
Applicant: Derek Thomson
Assessor: Laurent Bigot
Conclusion and recommendations
on 12-Jan-2018 (11 months ago)

Laurent Bigot wrote:

Les Observateurs fact-checks photos and videos sent by people who want to become “observers” or eyewitnesses, from all around the world. This website also contains a distinct fact-checking section that debunks photos and videos from the web and social media.

It’s a non partisan media, popular in France and worldwide and with a specific role in fact-checking, because it debunks a lot of fake photos and videos. It participates and it’s an active member of Cross Check… It makes a regular political fact-checking work, even if it’s not compliant with the majority of the principles enacted by the IFCN

To sum up my assessment, I can tell that Les Observateurs’ website needs to become compliant with more principles enacted by the IFCN, in order to be considered as an IFCN’s reliable partner.

on 12-Jan-2018 (11 months ago)

Laurent Bigot recommended Accept with edits


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Evidence of France 24's legal registration (France 24 is part of the state-owned France Médias Monde media group):

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/legal-notice

Mission of the France 24 Observers:

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about

The France 24 Observers was created in 2007 - a project of the France 24 TV network, itself created in 2006. France 24 - and thus The Observers - is now part of a state-owned media group called France Médias Monde.

Note on our methodology:

We have a global network of “Observers” – “ordinary people” who give us firsthand information about events they have witnessed or phenomena they live through on a daily basis. More than 4,000 Observers have contributed since our launch in 2007. They are ordinary citizens, social activists, community leaders (not government officials or company spokespeople…. and not usually journalists, though we sometimes use local journalists if we can find no other source).

The first time we come into contact with a potential Observer (either they approach us or we approach them), we treat them like any other news source. We crosscheck the information we give them against other sources; we ask for photo or video documentation; we question them closely about their access to the event and motivations for talking to us. We err on the side of caution. We contact pertinent government agencies or other concerned parties.

Once an Observer has contributed, they become a trusted source. We keep their contact info in a data base. That is a valuable resource for human verification. During the 2009 presidential election in Iran, when videos surfaced on YouTube we were able to consult our Observers in Tehran or Isfahan or Qum and ask them to confirm the date and location of the videos.

Regarding verification, in addition to the standard journalistic methods outlined above, we have 9 years’ experience of debunking fake images – using standard tools like Google Reverse Image Search and Amnesty’s Data Viewer. 

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs is a distinct participative section of France 24, a legally registered French media outlet. All the evidence of its legal registration are presented in the “Mentions légales” through its RCS number, here: http://observers.france24.com/fr/static/mentions-legales

And here: http://www.france24.com/fr/mentions-legales

The signatory explains that “France 24 Observers was created in 2007 - a project of the France 24 TV network, itself created in 2006. France 24 - and thus The Observers - is now part of a state-owned media group called France Médias Monde”. We can add that France Médias Monde is part of the French public broadcasting service (see the Décret n° 2012-85 du 25 janvier 2012 fixant le cahier des charges de la société nationale de programme en charge de l’audiovisuel extérieur de la France) and so a legally registered media outlet.

It contains a fact-checking section called “Intox” or “Debunked”, in which there are debunking articles dedicated to fake images and videos – using standard tools like Google Reverse Image Search and Amnesty’s Data Viewer for example. We can see the contain of this section here:

http://observers.france24.com/fr/tag/intox

And here: http://observers.france24.com/en/tag/fake


done 1a marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Note: the French version of our site is the reference and has the most content. We also have sites in English, Arabic and Persian. I include the English link below for your convenience.

http://observers.france24.com/fr/tag/intox

http://observers.france24.com/en/tag/fake

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs publish reports about the accuracy of photos and videos.

Its fact-checking section is a debunking section dedicated to fake images and videos:

http://observers.france24.com/en/tag/fake


done 1b marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

We have 9 years of experience in the verification of amateur content, using standard technical methods (reverse image search, Youtube Data Viewer), but backed up by human verification from our network of 4,000 "Observers" - trusted sources in countries across the world. We use the same standards and procedures regardless of the subject matter, though our techniques of course vary according the specific challenges of the information or document.

Here are some examples:

#1 - REAL OR FAKE? (educational video - French/English)

https://www.facebook.com/FRANCE24.English/videos/10153490413144434/?pnref=story

# 2 - No, migrants didn't have a picnic in a cemetery in Calais (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20160926-non-migrants-pas-pique-nique-cimetiere-calais-intox

# 3 - France's UN Twitter feed publishes 'Aleppo' photo... taken in Gaza (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20161006-intox-compte-twitter-france-onu-diffuse-photo-alep-prise-gaza-desinformation

# 4 - Old video of burning cars in Paris used to foment anti-Muslim sentiment (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20161125-france-paris-old-video-burning-cars-used-foment-anti-muslim-migrant-sentiment

# 5 - DEBUNKED - the fake Russian crusader in Syria (TV show - English)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOT2fG1i3ew

# 6 - DEBUNKED: Trump supporters share photo of battered woman… but it’s a fake (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160609-trump-photo-girl-blood-fake-debunked

# 7 - No, Trump Supporters Didn't Chant 'We hate blacks and Muslims' - at least not last night (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20161109-intox-pro-trump-slogans-racistes-musulmans-noirs-elections-americaines

# 8 - Is ‘executed Iraqi poet’ a tool in Sunni-Shiite propaganda war? (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160108-mystery-executed-iraqi-poet-iran-shiites

# 9 - Attack in Nice: Photos of fake victims and fake suspects flood social networks (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160715-attack-nice-fake-victims-suspects-social-networks

# 10 - Africa Check: Pride of lions didn’t kill 5 poachers in Zimbabwe (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160720-pride-lions-did-not-kill-poachers-zimbabwe-africa-check

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs selected 10 fact-checks’ links to prove scope and consistency of its work :

#1 - REAL OR FAKE? (educational video - French/English)

https://www.facebook.com/FRANCE24.English/videos/10153490413144434/?pnref=story

# 2 - No, migrants didn't have a picnic in a cemetery in Calais (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20160926-non-migrants-pas-pique-nique-cimetiere-calais-intox

# 3 - France's UN Twitter feed publishes 'Aleppo' photo... taken in Gaza (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20161006-intox-compte-twitter-france-onu-diffuse-photo-alep-prise-gaza-desinformation

# 4 - Old video of burning cars in Paris used to foment anti-Muslim sentiment (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20161125-france-paris-old-video-burning-cars-used-foment-anti-muslim-migrant-sentiment

# 5 - DEBUNKED - the fake Russian crusader in Syria (TV show - English)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOT2fG1i3ew

# 6 - DEBUNKED: Trump supporters share photo of battered woman… but it’s a fake (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160609-trump-photo-girl-blood-fake-debunked

# 7 - No, Trump Supporters Didn't Chant 'We hate blacks and Muslims' - at least not last night (article - French)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20161109-intox-pro-trump-slogans-racistes-musulmans-noirs-elections-americaines

# 8 - Is ‘executed Iraqi poet’ a tool in Sunni-Shiite propaganda war? (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160108-mystery-executed-iraqi-poet-iran-shiites

# 9 - Attack in Nice: Photos of fake victims and fake suspects flood social networks (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160715-attack-nice-fake-victims-suspects-social-networks

# 10 - Africa Check: Pride of lions didn’t kill 5 poachers in Zimbabwe (article - English)

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160720-pride-lions-did-not-kill-poachers-zimbabwe-africa-check

This fact-checking work is interesting but it’s not a fact-checking based on claim and on the political debate… These examples can’t demonstrate that Les Observateurs cover a variety of subjects or speakers and do not unduly concentrate on one side of the topic/context they fact-check.

However, the signatory wishes to explain : “We have 9 years of experience in the verification of amateur content, using standard technical methods (reverse image search, Youtube Data Viewer), but backed up by human verification from our network of 4,000 "Observers" - trusted sources in countries across the world. We use the same standards and procedures regardless of the subject matter, though our techniques of course vary according the specific challenges of the information or document.

We can consider it’s a different job and not strictly a political fact-checking job.


done 2a marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

The code of standards of France Médias Monde (our parent company - I've sent a copy) has general wording about respecting pluralism and balance of viewpoint (excerpt below... let me know if you'd like a translation:

- Respecter le pluralisme et l’équilibre des points de vue. Le traitement de l’information doit être équitable, honnête et manifester le même niveau d’exigence et d’attention entre les différentes opinions et points de vues qui peuvent s’exprimer sur une même information dans le cadre du respect de l’ordre public, des valeurs de la personne et de la dignité humaine.

For more specific practical rules within the newsroom - such as policy on journalists participating in political activity - please see the attached letter from France 24's news director, Marc Saikali. 

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

To explain its policies to preserve its non-partisan way of fact-checking claims, Les Observateurs mentions the France Médias Monde code of ethics. The editor in chief sent to the IFCN a copy of this document and a letter from France 24's news director, Marc Saikali.

The code of ethics specifies the independence of the journalists and their staff :

“Respecter le pluralisme et l’équilibre des points de vue. Le traitement de l’information doit être équitable, honnête et manifester le même niveau d’exigence et d’attention entre les différentes opinions et points de vues qui peuvent s’exprimer sur une même information dans le cadre du respect de l’ordre public, des valeurs de la personne et de la dignité humaine. »

According to my assessment, I can tell that Les Observateurs do not seem to support a candidate in any elections nor to advocate or take policy positions on any issues not strictly related to fact-checking. 


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

We are entirely open about our methods, and try to disseminate them to the public as much as possible. Please see the video examples cited above in section 2b (#1 and #5)

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

The Observateurs’ staff doesn’t have a real policy on sources. It only evokes, in the IFCN application document:

“We are entirely open about our methods, and try to disseminate them to the public as much as possible. Please see the video examples cited above in section 2b (#1 and #5)”

Our assessment allows us to say that the way Les Observateurs fact-checks photos and videos does not always permit the public to verify their findings themselves.

Les Observateurs doesn’t link regularly to the sources of the claim they fact-check because they don’t really fact-check claims… But that’s right that we can find a methodology to fact-check photos and videos here:

https://www.facebook.com/FRANCE24.English/videos/10153490413144434/?pnref=story


done 3a marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

I have sent you a publicly available document called the "Cahier de Charges" that sets out the founding principles of France Médias Monde. It states that:

- FMM is 100%-owned by the French state

- we clearly identify programs that are sponsored

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs has no specific section to detail their sources of funding. They sent to the IFCN a document called "Cahier de Charges":

“It sets out the founding principles of France Médias Monde. It states that FMM is 100%-owned by the French state”

Our assessment allows us to say that Les Observateurs and France Médias Monde are part of the French public broadcasting service. But there’s no page on the website to explain that; we can only find elsewhere an edict (a public and legal text) that explains the Observateurs’ public funding and the way their editorial independence is preserved… So it’s not very transparent.

The link to the official edict is here :

https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/decret/2012/1/25/MCCE1132195D/jo/texte


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Members of the France 24 Observers team are identified on our site (though we don't have the resources to post bios):

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs listed the biographies of their contributors in line with criterion (4b), here:

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about#corrections

It’s now easier to identify the journalists. Les Observateurs is now compliant with criterion 4b.

-------

There’s a section (on the Observateurs website) detailing authors behind the project here:

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about

But there’s no section to present their biographies.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

http://observers.france24.com/fr/static/contactez-nous (NOTE We also display our WhatsApp # and Facebook and Twitter accounts in our weekly TV show)

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

It’s quite easy for readers to contact Les Observateurs: they can use the page called “Nous contacter” or “Contactez-nous” (the link is at the bottom of each page: http://observers.france24.com/fr/static/contactez-nous) It provides a generic e-mail to contact the journalists. 


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

We explain our methodology whenever possible (see #3 above), also in didactic guides like this one http://observers.france24.com/fr/20151106-comment-verifier-images-reseaux-sociaux

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs published a more detailed and easily reachable section with their methodology, in line with criterion (5a), here:

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about#methodology

Les Observateurs is now compliant with criterion 5a.

-------

Les Observateurs seem not to have a particular methodology to do fact-checking. So there’s no accessible place on there website where it explains this methodology publicly and clearly.

The staff explains (in the application form): “We explain our methodology whenever possible, also in didactic guides like this one http://observers.france24.com/fr/20151106-comment-verifier-images-reseaux-sociaux

But there’s a place on the website where it’s possible to read an explanation about the Observateurs’ work, here : http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about

It explains: “The Observers is a collaborative site in four languages (French, English, Arabic and Persian) and a TV show on France 24 (with both a weekly and monthly edition). We cover international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts from "Observers" - that's to say people who are at the heart of an event. They send us photos and videos, which our team of professional journalists in Paris both verify and contextualize.

In the application document, Les Observateurs give details about their work:

Note on our methodology:

We have a global network of “Observers” – “ordinary people” who give us firsthand information about events they have witnessed or phenomena they live through on a daily basis. More than 4,000 Observers have contributed since our launch in 2007. They are ordinary citizens, social activists, community leaders (not government officials or company spokespeople…. and not usually journalists, though we sometimes use local journalists if we can find no other source).

The first time we come into contact with a potential Observer (either they approach us or we approach them), we treat them like any other news source. We crosscheck the information we give them against other sources; we ask for photo or video documentation; we question them closely about their access to the event and motivations for talking to us. We err on the side of caution. We contact pertinent government agencies or other concerned parties.

Once an Observer has contributed, they become a trusted source. We keep their contact info in a data base. That is a valuable resource for human verification. During the 2009 presidential election in Iran, when videos surfaced on YouTube we were able to consult our Observers in Tehran or Isfahan or Qum and ask them to confirm the date and location of the videos.

Regarding verification, in addition to the standard journalistic methods outlined above, we have 9 years’ experience of debunking fake images – using standard tools like Google Reverse Image Search and Amnesty’s Data Viewer.


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

We have no specific "submit for fact-checking" button on the site. We are in constant contact with our Observers who send us examples of potential fake news via Facebook, email, Whatsapp, etc. 

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

There’s no dedicated page to invite readers to submit claims to fact-check on Les Observateurs’ web site.

The staff explains:

“We have no specific "submit for fact-checking" button on the site. We are in constant contact with our Observers who send us examples of potential fake news via Facebook, email, Whatsapp, etc.”

And, on the website “about” section, we can read:

“Once you are signed up on the site, our journalists can also get in touch with you (remember to include a phone number when you register) about a topic they're working on. Of course, it's up to you whether you contribute or not. Our Observers come from all over the world. They live in small villages and sprawling capitals. They are students, nurses, miners, activists, professors and any other profession you can imagine. They are your eyes across the globe.”

It’s a kind of explanation to detail the way they can send photos or videos that Les Observateurs will fact-check. There’s also a picture.


done 5b marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

The attached code of standards of France Médias Monde, parent company of France 24, outlines our corrections policy:

Il convient de rectifier les erreurs publiées et de respecter le droit de réponse des personnes souhaitant l’exercer.

(Translation: "Published errors shall be corrected and the right of response accorded to those who claim it.")

Note: "right of response" is the traditional French method of correction: a person or entity who feels unfairly characterised by a publication or broadcast has the right to have their side of the story published by the same publication or broadcast after the initial story goes out.

At the Observers, we follow the Anglo-Saxon model: seek reaction from concerned parties before publication of the original article; add pertinent reactions to the article if they come in post-publication; add pertinent factual updates; and of course correct any errors in an open and clear way.

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Les Observateurs published a corrections policy in line with criterion (6a), here :

http://observers.france24.com/en/static/about#bios

Now, Les Observateurs has a public corrections policy, in its “about” section.

-------

Les Observateurs have no public corrections policy.

But it only explains that “the France Médias Monde code of standards, parent company of France 24, outlines (their) correction policy: published errors shall be corrected and the right of response accorded to those who claim it.”


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Laurent Bigot.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

France 24 - Les Observateurs
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

Here are the only two corrections I can find from the last year:

http://observers.france24.com/en/20170222-residents-south-africa%E2%80%99-suburbs-burn-down-brothels-loot-foreign-owned-homes

http://observers.france24.com/en/20160218-selfie-tourists-kill-baby-dolphin-argentina

We are, however, open with our users about the nature of information and the realities of verification. We make every effort to contact concerned parties and regularly update articles if those parties respond post-publication. An example below (at the very end of the piece we list the Cameroonian agencies we tried to contact for a story about prison conditions):

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20170131-vie-abominable-detenu-prison-centrale-yaounde

When we posted a video version of the report 2 weeks later we added an update of how conditions had changed at the prison after the report aired:

http://observers.france24.com/fr/20170216-video-enfer-detenu-prison-yaounde-quotidien-cameroun

We’re in constant touch with our Observers and those who follow us, and make changes if they point out an error or inaccuracy. Here’s another example from Cameroon – a headline referring to a “language dispute” that we changed after users pointed out that it was not about language but two different communities.

https://www.facebook.com/FRANCE24.Observers/posts/1401828293191785?match=bGFuZ3VhZ2UgZGlzcHV0ZQ%3D%3D

Laurent Bigot Assessor
13-Jul-2017 (1 year ago)

But it is not able to give one or two examples of a correction made. We can consider that it is at least partially compliant with criterion 6b.

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It seems that Les Observateurs have no real example of implementation of its correction policy to provide.


done 6b marked as Partially compliant by Laurent Bigot.