The many faces fighting disinformation
  • Activism
  • Journalism

The first citizens’ anti-fake news brigade

Aude is a journalist by training. She is also president of Fake Off, a media literacy association that works with young people in classrooms, which she founded together with a small group of journalists in the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks. Behind the crisis of media literacy and ‘fake news’, Aude identifies a lack of dialogue and a growing mistrust between journalists and people. Following the election of Donald Trump, she began to feel that it wasn’t sufficient to intervene in classrooms, and decided to take directly to YouTube. “The motivation behind everything is anger, I see the impunity, the indecency of manipulating the public, it makes me so angry.”

La rédac’ WTFake (‘the citizen journal’) tracks and debunks conspiracy theories, primarily found on YouTube, with the support and admiration of an online following. In a way, Aude’s activities mirror those of her enemies – like the conspiracy theorist Jean-Jacques Crevecoeur – in a multimedia chase that plays out across the social web. The investigations progress over several days on a Discord chat, and culminate in a revelation streamed live over Twitch. A handful of dedicated followers have become discussion moderators. Others contribute in different ways, like developing the logo. Her colleague Sylvain Louvet helps with editorial and video production. Aude now has 1411 people on her Discord, and the feedback from many of her followers suggests she is achieving the impact she hoped for, regularly receiving comments like “usually I don’t like journalists, but I like you!”

C’est le bazar” 

Organisationally, things are messy, Aude admits. She set out on this alone, without a financial model, and without the kinds of contacts that many need in this space to survive. A few crowdfunding links have not yielded much yet. “I’m just a little investigative journalist, but now I find myself having to reflect like a business person” she explains. While the energy of her followers motivates her to continue, animating the community also limits her ability to strategize and grow. To devote time to fundraising would mean abandoning the community, and both activities take away from time spent on investigations. Meanwhile, there are trolls to be wary of. Aude has already changed her phone number after a conspiracy theorist doxxed her online. “Given the people I want to investigate, I’ll probably see more of this,” she reflects.

Aude Favre

“I’m just a little investigative journalist, but now I find myself having to reflect like a business person”