Crisis in Bolivia: a month of fake news and at least 15 dead – Bolivia Verifies
Crisis in Bolivia: a month of fake news and at least 15 dead

Bolivia Verifies

We are an independent, non-profit, political-leaning digital media outlet that engages in fake news verification (fake news) and public discourse to fight disinformation and improve democratic participation.


Crisis in Bolivia: a month of fake news and at least 15 dead

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As the demand for checkups has grown considerably among Bolivians, the ChequeaBolivia group has had to develop a system to calculate which information is more viral and only what has been really widely shared is rectified in the networks.

A woman protests in El Alto, Bolivia. credit: AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images

By entering social networks to learn about the political crisis in Bolivia, one has to know that one is going to dive into a sea of misinformation. It's going to take time, patience and a lot, a lot of attention.

From the 20 October, when Bolivia made its elections and former President Evo Morales was elected for the fourth time on suspicion of fraud, street protests in La Paz and other Bolivian cities became more violent and more frequent. So much so that the armed forces have decided to enter the stage and arrest at least two of the directors of the country's Superior Electoral Tribunal.

The 12 Of November, in an attempt to calm tempers, Morales decided to seek asylum and took refuge in Mexico. by 48 hours, Bolivia had no one in charge of the Executive Branch, until the senator Jeanine Añez proclaimed herself interim president.

If it weren't for the work of CheckBolivia and Bolivia Verifies, two fact-checking platforms (data check) relatively new ones that are publishing at full steam, it would be virtually impossible to know what is real and what is a lie.

They're already going over 30 days of crisis in the real world – with fact-checkers filtering networks.

Gabriela Weiss is one of the journalists working at ChequeaBolivia. In a brief interview with the IFCN (the international network of data checkers), said his routine has totally changed in the last month. The most relevant thing is that neither she nor her team can reach the headquarters of the newsroom they set up in June..

“In every corner of Cochabamba there is a blockade. No vehicle passage. And it's usually very dangerous to take to the streets.. So we're working from home., making meetings online”, Said.

and, as the demand for check-ups has grown considerably among Bolivians, your group has had to develop a system to calculate the viralization rate of a certain content. Only what has really been widely shared is rectified in the networks.

“We first see what our readers are asking us to do and make a priority list”, says Weiss. “Then we calculate viralization. We don't post a check of something that hasn't gone viral because we'd be playing against what we do and want to work responsibly.”, Added.

Among the most viral fake news there is a little bit of everything: from very serious content, causing panic, even nonsense that can even make the fact-checkers (fact-checkers).

In the first group, Weiss remembers, For example, false information about an alleged Venezuelan military aircraft which would have landed at Viru Viru Airport, in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, to control demonstrations against Morales.

“It went viral very quickly. in 10 minutes, reached almost 2,000 shared on Twitter and we had a hard time rectifying because we lacked sources”, said the checker. “We had to contact different pilots and even people who work at the airport to be sure this hadn't happened.. after, the Directorate of Aviation released a statement also denying the news”.

Another case was the viral video showing a military helicopter – supposedly Bolivian – randomly shooting at some houses at night. In the first version flogging by the verifiers, the action was said to be directly related to Morales' departure.. In the second (Yes, Was!), the image came with a fake CNN logo, to make it look more real.

CheckBolivia discovered that the video, In fact, era of 2017 and that it had been recorded in Mexico, during an operation against drug traffickers in the city of Tepic.

On the other hand, the fact-checkers had to face a fake tweet attributed to American actor Robert De Niro. The image went viral in Bolivia because it read that De Niro "said" that the actor had posted on social media that Evo Morales was "a dictator and a murderer..

CheckBolivia Found, However, that De Niro doesn't even maintain a Twitter account. The @RobertDeNiroUS profile, responsible for the tweet, has been created by fans of the actor – as you can see in the profile description, but few people stopped to read this information before sharing the "news".

Beyond knowing how to detect low quality content, it's important to follow Bolivia's verifiers because you're also checking what the powerful say. Bolivia Verifies, For example, listened to Morales' interview with BBC World and gave a relevant "false" to the former president.

The former president maintained that, before your resignation (the 11 Of November), Bolivia had not recorded any deaths as a result of the political conflict. According to the Documentation and Information Centre Bolivia (CEDIB) and the Office of the Ombudsman, this is not correct. The two entities keep counts on the number of people killed as a result of the political conflict since the 21 october and, before Morales' resignation, were at least three: Mario Salvatierra, Marcelo Terrazas and Limbert Guzmán.

the fact-checkers they won't let Morales or the Bolivians forget that this has happened.

Follow the picture, with a summary, for those who want to check the checkers. It is public and reliable data:

People killed during conflicts after the general elections 2019 in Bolivia. credit: Table of 'Bolivia Verifies', with data from the Public Defender's Office and Cedib.

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