|During the early days of the pandemic, I had immigrated to Canada and was keen to contribute my skills as a humanitarian public health scientist with global experience, in a meaningful way.|
I first met the DataLEADS team at a conference I had co-organised with my Medicins Sans Frontieres colleagues in Delhi, India, to de-colonise the scientific health and humanitarian agenda from Europe to ensure a local focus. Soon, I became a member of First Check. In fact, I was among the first fact checkers to join this global community.
My fact-checking journey began because many of my family members were sharing myths and misinformation via social media. I was spending a lot of time and energy trying to disprove the lies that were being perpetuated via social media for their safety.
First Check helped me realise that I didn’t have to face and combat these challenges alone, and I was able to do more good by asking my colleagues from across the border - who were specialised - pertinent questions to help with the myth-busting. Often, our First Check colleagues would write a piece based on our discussion, documenting the knowledge.
While volunteering my time, I was able to share my expertise, raise scientific questions, and share my views, in a non-judgmental space with interdisciplinary professionals. We would also check in on each other regularly to validate each other’s challenges, wish each other on special occasions, and ensure each of us was emotionally well and had support through this connection.
Our shared connections led us to conduct fact-checking at all hours of the day, to shape this initiative which contributed to realising that despite being from different countries, ethnicities, and different beliefs, our communities had the same enemy – mis/disinformation.
The initiative was extremely unique, and as a member of First Check, I appreciate how this space brought together people from across borders demonstrating that community, humanity, and kindness comes first, no matter the crisis.
Dr Safieh Shah
Public health researcher