Catch a CoronaFake! Contest Encourages Citizens to Fact-Check Photos and Social Media Posts

Drawing entries from more than half the regions of Ukraine, a recent contest awarded cash prizes to ordinary people who could spot disinformation or misinformation in news surrounding COVID-19.

The submissions exposed manipulations with coronavirus death statistics, conspiracy theories, unproven methods of COVID-19 prevention, and photos discrediting the professionalism of doctors.

The competition was designed to motivate citizens to report fakes and to educate others about how to spot misinformation and disinformation. The Institute of Mass Information, an Internews partner in Ukraine, held the contest and awarded nine prizes.

Winners Selected in Three Categories:

Detection of Fakes in Online Media:

First place was Bogodyorova Karina Sergeevna from Kramatorsk, who detected a fake story about coronavirus in sewage. The false news piece claimed that scientists from the Netherlands found coronavirus in sewage, and to protect oneself from the virus, everybody’s houses should have separate sewer pipes.

Detection of Fake Images in Online Media:

A post showing a photo of two people in protective gear with some Russian text
A medical worker wearing simple personal protective gear (left) meets with a more fully-equipped authority. The photo falsely gave the impression that Ukrainian doctors were poorly equipped.

First prize went to Mikhail Lomonosov from Nizhyn for discovering an image illustrating protection equipment used by doctors that claimed to be from the Cherivtsi region of Ukraine but was actually from Russia. Pro-Russian Ukrainian media posted the image with an article that claimed that doctors in Ukraine are poorly equipped with protective equipment.

Detection of False Reports of Coronavirus on Social Networks

Szeged Halyna from Vinnytsia won first prize in the category for revealing misinformation in a video from Ukrainian politician Yuri Karmazin in which he claims that Cuba had developed a vaccine and drug treatment for COVID-19. In the video, Karmazin urges the President to buy the vaccine. Currently, there is no proven vaccine for COVID-19. The video was actively shared on social networks but was later deleted.

The criteria for the contest included the quality of argumentation (how the entrant concluded that a story was fake), the importance of the topic, and the contestant’s originality (use of different sources or methods of verification).

The submissions came from 88 individuals in 17 different regions throughout Ukraine. The winners received cash prizes and their entries were published in four national media outlets, two local outlets and were shared on social media.

More information about the contest is available in Ukrainian on the Institute of Mass Information’s website.

(Banner photo: screenshot from a video that Ukrainian politician Yuri Karmazin posted on his blog promoting a COVID-19 vaccine from Cuba.)