The year is almost over, so it is good to look back. First, the numbers, as of December 15, 2022.
This year we have published 1,555 fact checks in English (so far ...)
283 fact checks about COVID misinformation;
244 debunks of Russian propaganda and false claims about the invasion of Ukraine;
140 debunks of false claims about election fraud, candidates and policy.
Besides those three topics we also covered claims ranging from many debunks about the World Economic Forum's Great Reset to deep doubts that Americans ever landed on the moon to a deepfake video that purportedly showed President Joe Biden singing "Baby Shark."
We Pulled No Punches Tackling Conspiracy Theories About Election Fraud
Lead Stories' team of veteran politics reporters and editors wrote and edited dozens of debunks every week during the midterm election campaign season, shooting down consequential falsehoods about voting machines, voter registration, vote counting and candidates.
In all, they wrote more than 140 fact checks and were still combating election falsehoods as 2022 wound down.
Among the falsehood balloons punctured by Lead Stories:
- That Donald Trump called on "MAGA Patriots" to boycott the midterms;
- That Arizona ballot trucks made an unplanned stop on the way to the counting room;
- That Dallas County, Texas, used outdated and unapproved ballot book software;
- That waiting for Pennsylvania election results for more than a day is a sign of vote theft;
- That steep curves on "Pillow Guy" Mike Lindell's on-screen computer graphics document vote theft;
- That polling-place Wi-Fi availability proves voting machines are connected to the web and vulnerable to hacking;
- That billionaire George Soros funded voting machines in order to facilitate election rigging;
- That California allows non-citizens to vote in congressional elections;
- That Dinesh D'Souza's "2000 Mules" film documents election fraud;
- That hiccups on television data streams during the Colorado midterm election proved vote theft;
We Launched espanol.leadstories.com Before The Midterm Elections
Confronted with evidence of a rising flood of disinformation in Spanish aimed at U.S. users, Meta asked Lead Stories to set up a new all-Spanish fact checking service. With experience in Texas' borderlands, Florida and Washington, D.C., the new team began publishing October 13, addressing a wide range of false claims about elections and immigration as well as scams that target Spanish speakers.
Since launching in late September the team has published 39 fact checks so far, with more being added every day.
And that was not the only new language Lead Stories was active in ...
When Russia Invaded Ukraine, We Popped Up Russian And Ukrainian Sites
Meta, seeking to provide a backstop for Russian-language and Ukrainian-language fact checkers, should war disrupt them entirely, asked Lead Stories to temporarily provide service in both languages.
Russian.leadstories.com went live in three weeks, with a veteran Moscow correspondent as editor, supervising expatriate Russians, two of whom had worked for the once-brave investigative newspaper Kommersant and for TV Rain. They produced 85 stories in Russian during the four-month program, slowing the spread of disinformation on Russian Facebook. Two still write for Lead Stories, informing our English-language coverage of propaganda campaigns.
Ukrainian.leadstories.com went live the same day as the Russian site, March 8. A team of Ukrainian journalists tracked propaganda and fake news, using Lead Stories' proprietary tracking tools to shoot down fake stories from both governments. The team, all women, worked from Kyiv, from eastern Ukraine and when it was no longer safe for them to remain, they decamped and continued working from neighboring countries. In four months, they wrote 66 debunks in Ukrainian that were used by Facebook to slay disinformation in Ukraine.
Lead Stories Defeated Two Lawsuits Seeking To Muzzle Fact Checkers
As 2022 wound down, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' rulings in favor of Lead Stories in a slander suit brought by The Gateway Pundit website against us. Writer Dean Miller had debunked Gateway Pundit's claims about its technological sleuthing of files from the purported Hunter Biden laptop.
The year had started well for Lead Stories' legal campaign to protect fact checking from intimidation by those who profit from misinformation. In February, Delaware's Supreme Court heard oral arguments and then ruled against author and talk show host Candace Owens, who had sued Lead Stories and USA Today, seeking to shut down fact checking of her false claims that the government was overstating the scope and danger of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December, Lead Stories Analysts Uncovered A Malware-Spreading Campaign
The recent spate of celebrity death hoaxes targeting (among others) Dolly Parton, Bruce Willis, Alan Jackson, Sylvester Stallone and Celine Dion?-- Lead Stories (@LeadStoriesCom) December 10, 2022
We figured out who was behind it. Meet the Cambodian programmers spamming thousands of Facebook groups...https://t.co/gLvQfHI6Zp