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FCEU newsletter #2: let's not fall for viral rankings

FactCheckEU, France

15 April 2019, Updated: 16 April 2019

In the second edition of the FactcheckEU newsletter, we have a sourceless quote from Charles Darwin's grandfather about Spanish colonialism.

Hello, this is Jules Darmanin from FactcheckEU, with another week of fresh misinformation for you. But first, a correction. In a section of the previous newsletter, dedicated to hoaxes around environmental activist Gerta Thunberg, I wrote that she didn't receive the Golden Kamera, a German award. She actually received it. Now, back to this week:

Story of the week : Viral rankings

Rankings are an effortless way of harvesting clicks. For instance, if I give you this link to a video of a Slovakian youtuber ranking all the 2019 Eurovision songs, there's a good chance you want to click on it. I know you do. (Here's an interesting short podcast about this.)

That's why an astounding number of outlets, including the Financial Times or La Repubblica, used Numbeo, a Serbian website, as a source for their ranking of countries and cities.

Numbeo ranks everything: crime, pollution, cost of life, traffic, you name it. But the website has only one way of ranking places: by surveying random people on the Internet, which means that Numbeo doesn't rank crime or pollution, but the bare perception of crime and pollution. With the additional caveat that anyone can be surveyed for any place. Before writing this newsletter, I answered a survey about pollution in Accra, Ghana.

This is not harmless, as we found that Numbeo and its unreliable methodology have had consequences on the political discourse. Our partner Viralgranskaren has found a viral Facebook post claiming that Sweden was the most dangerous country in Europe. Its source: Numbeo's dubious "Crime Index". You can read our full report here.

The week on FactcheckEU

🇩🇪 In Germany 🇩🇪

Last week, we discussed hoaxes on Yellow Vests protests going around in France. It turns out that other hoaxes about the French movement are circulating, this time in Germany. Correctiv debunked them with the help of CheckNews.

🇮🇹 In Italy 🇮🇹

Comparing your country to other countries in order to make your point is one of the oldest political tricks in the book. Matteo Salvini used it and claimed that Italy was the only country to have Roma camps.Pagella Politica debunked this outright lie.

In Europe

Nathalie Loiseau, Emmanuel Macron's former minister and head of the government-backed Renaissance list claimed that the German Green party was receiving funds from Volkswagen. That was true until 2017, but not anymore, reports Checknews.

What our partners are working on

What's going on elsewhere

Have a great week,
- Jules

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