A big year for fact-checking, but not for new U.S. fact-checkers

Following a historic pattern, the number of American media outlets verifying political statements dropped after last year's presidential campaign.

By Mark Stencel – December 13, 2017 | Print this article

All the talk about political lies and misinformation since last year’s election has been good for the fact-checking business in the United States — but it has not meant an increase in fact-checkers. In fact, the number has dropped, much as we’ve come to expect during odd-numbered years in the United States.

We’re still editing and adding to our global list of fact-checkers for the annual census we’ll publish in January. Check back with us then for the final tally. But the trend line in the United States already is following a pattern we’ve seen before in the year after a presidential election: At the start of 2017, there were 51 active U.S. fact checkers, 35 of which were locally oriented and 16 of which were nationally focused. Now there are 44, of which 28 are local and 16 are mainly national.

This count includes some political fact-checkers that are mainly seasonal players. These news organizations have consistently fact-checked politicians’ statements through political campaigns, but then do little if any work verifying during the electoral “offseason.” And not all the U.S. fact-checkers in our database focus exclusively — or even at all — on politics. Sites such as Gossip Cop, Snopes.com and Climate Feedback are in the mix, too.

The story is different elsewhere in the world, where we have seen continuing growth in the number of fact-checking ventures, especially in countries that held elections and weathered national political scandals. Again, our global census isn’t done yet, but so far we’ve counted 137 active fact-checking projects around the world — up from 114 at the start of the year. And we expect more to come — offsetting the number of international fact-checkers that closed down in other countries after the preceding year’s elections.

Still, the number of U.S. fact-checkers accounts for about a third of the projects that appear in the Reporters’ Lab’s database, even after this year’s drop.

So why do so many U.S. fact-checkers close up shop after elections? PolitiFact founder Bill Adair, who now runs the Reporters’ Lab and Duke’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy, asked that question in a New York Times op-ed on the eve of last year’s election. He attributed the retraction in part to the fact-checkers’ traditional focus on claims made in political ads, which was how the movement began in the early 1990s. Also, newsroom staffing and budgets often shrink after the votes are counted. That’s too bad, because, as Bill noted, “politicians don’t stop lying on Election Day.”

A handful of U.S. newcomers began fact-checking in 2017. One was Indy Fact Check. It’s a project of The Nevada Independent, a nonprofit news site based in Las Vegas. The Independent got its feet wet in January with a look at the accuracy of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s 2017 State of the State address before launching a regular fact-checking series in June.

An “Almost Abe” rating from Indy Fact Check in Nevada. (The Nevada Independent)

To rate the claims it reports on, Indy Fact Check uses a sliding, true-to-false scale illustrated with cartoon versions of Abraham Lincoln. The facial expression on “Honest Abe” changes with each rating, which run from “Honest as Abe” and “Almost Abe” on the true side to “Hardly Abe” and “All Hat, no Abe” on the false side.

One of Indy Fact Check’s regular contributors is Riley Snyder, who previously was the reporter at PolitiFact Nevada at KTNV-TV (13 Action News). KTNV was one of several local news outlets owned by Scripps TV Station Group that briefly served as PolitiFact state affiliates before closing down the partnership — after the 2016 election, of course. So in Nevada at least, one site closes and another opens.

Another new player in the U.S. fact-checking market this year was The Weekly Standard. This conservative publication based in Washington has a dedicated fact-checker, Holmes Lybrand, who does not contribute to the political commentary and reporting for which the Standard is generally known. With this structural separation, it recently became a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles. The Standard is owned by Clarity Media Group, a division of the Anschutz Entertainment Group that also publishes the Washington Examiner and Red Alert Politics.

By January, we may have a few more additions to add to our 2017 tally, but that won’t change the bottom line. This was a year of retraction in the U.S. That’s similar to the pattern our database shows after the last presidential election, in 2013, when PunditFact was the only new U.S. fact-checker.

But the numbers began to grow again a year later, during the midterm election in 2014, and continued from there. Because of the large number of candidates and the early start of the 2016 presidential debate and primary process, a number of new fact-checkers launched in 2015. So we’ll be watching for similar patterns in the United States over the next two years.

Student researcher Riley Griffin contributed to this report.

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ZenMate

The wide world of fact-checking apps

From phone apps to browser extensions, the landscape of fact-checking tools is growing — but how many of them are useful?

By Bill McCarthy – December 6, 2017 | Print this article

It is no secret that news consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to politics.

Sure, they can visit journalism’s traditional truth-seeking outlets — such as PolitiFact or FactCheck.org — if they are looking for the whole story. But what if they want a quicker fix? What if they want to know, with the click of a button, if the article they are reading may include fabricated content? Well, there may now be an app for that — in fact, many apps.

The wave of falsehoods that dominated the 2016 election cycle has inspired several enterprising companies and individuals to create mobile applications and web browser extensions to promote fact-checking and detect stories with falsehoods.

In a recent analysis for the Reporters’ Lab, I identified at least 45 fact-checking and falsehood-detecting apps and browser extensions available for download on the Apple or Android app stores, the Google Chrome web store and Firefox. Many share similar design characteristics and functionality.

Several of the best apps and extensions simply make fact-checks more accessible. These apps, including Settle It! Politifact’s Argument Ender, let users view and filter through fact-checks aggregated from online fact-checking sites. (Disclosure: Bill Adair, director of the Reporters’ Lab, contributed to the creation of this app.) Some, like The Washington Post’s RealDonaldContext, are specifically tailored to fact-check President Donald Trump’s tweets.

A few extensions — such as FakerFact or NewsCracker — evaluate credibility online by generating algorithmic scores to predict whether particular web pages are likely true or false. I found both extensions questionable because it is not clear which inputs are driving their algorithms. But they show nonetheless that fully automated fact-checking may not be so far away — even if FakerFact and NewsCracker are themselves lacking in transparency and value.

Other extensions enable users to crowdsource fact-checks. Users of these community-oriented platforms can flag and provide fact-checks online for other users to see. Where these extensions fail, however, is in training their users to fact-check. My analysis noted that several users have submitted fact-checks for opinion statements — and several others have disputed statements on a hyper-partisan basis.

Many of the existing apps and extensions are designed to spot, detect or block false stories. Some alert readers to any potential “bias” associated with a website, while others flag websites that may contain falsehoods, conspiracy theories, clickbait, satire and more. Some even provide security checks for spear phishing and malware. One drawback to these apps and extensions, however, is that their assessments are subjective — because all such apps and extensions are discretionary, none can honestly claim to be the end-all arbiter of truth or political bias.

In summary, some of the identified apps and extensions — like FactPopUp, our own Reporters’ Lab app that provides automated fact-checks to users watching the live stream of a political event — show signs of being on the cutting edge of fact-checking. The future is certainly bright. But not all of the market’s apps and extensions are highly effective in their current form.

Fact-checking and falsehood detection apps and extensions should be considered supplements to — not replacements of — human brain power. Given that caveat, below are three of what I found to be the most refined options. They are ready for action as news-reading supplements.

GlennKessler

Glenn Kessler

GlennKessler, available for free download on Apple’s app store, is an aggregation of fact-checks from Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Kessler’s son, Hugo, created the app when he was 16 years old.

Users of GlennKessler can view fact-checked claims and filter them according to the number of “Pinocchios” they received or the political party of the speakers. The app also includes videos related to fact-checking and interviews with Glenn Kessler, as well as a game where users can test their fact-checking knowledge. As an added feature, users can learn about and email questions directly to Kessler himself.

Official Media Bias Fact Check Icon

Fact Check Icon

The Official Media Bias Fact Check Icon, a free extension for Chrome browsers, purports to provide “bias” ratings for more than 2,000 media sources online. While browsing the internet, users are presented with a color-coded icon denoting each website’s “bias.”

A related extension, the Official Media Bias Fact Check Extension, highlights “bias” within Facebook’s news feed. Users can ask the extension to eliminate sources fitting a particular “bias” rating from appearing in their feed. Unfortunately, this “collapse” feature brings with it the possibility that users will abuse the extension to reinforce existing filter bubbles within an increasingly fragmented social media landscape.

It is important to remember as well that Media Bias Fact Check claims to find “bias” according to its own labeling methodology. This is a complicated assessment, so users should take the ratings with a grain of salt. As committed as a site may be to the truth, there can truly be no definitive rating for something so sensitive as political bias.

ZenMate SafeSearch and Fake News Detector

ZenMate

ZenMate SafeSearch and Fake News Detector, a free extension for Chrome browsers from the Berlin-based startup ZenMate, signals whether a website is “good” or “suspect.” Users see ratings not only of a website’s credibility, but also of its security and ownership. The extension does not work for articles appearing on social media.

Per the extension’s description, ZenMate SafeSearch “aggregates and enriches various databases and feeds” in order to assess the credibility of various webpages. I found this low level of transparency alarming. As with Media Bias Fact Check’s extensions, users should be wary that ZenMate’s ratings are by nature subjective. The concept of “bias” is likely more complicated for an algorithm to score.

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StoryTracer

Duke graduate develops Chrome extension to identify source reporting

The tool aims to help news consumers understand what they are reading by identifying the original source of a story

By Bill McCarthy – November 14, 2017 | Print this article

A former Duke Reporters’ Lab researcher has created a new tool to help readers discover the story behind the story.

Gautam Hathi, Trinity ‘17, has just published StoryTracer in the Google Chrome web store. The tool, a free extension for the Chrome browser, identifies source reporting behind news stories on the internet. It works by checking whether links embedded in online news articles connect to similar content elsewhere.

When users navigate to a webpage, StoryTracer will try to pinpoint the original source by examining the links on the page. If a likely source is identified, a pop-up will appear to indicate that the page might be based on content from one or more other sites. When links connect to sites that are not related to the webpage at hand, StoryTracer does not highlight them as likely sources.

StoryTracer StoryTracer

“It does this repeatedly, so once it follows a link, it will look at all the links on those pages and so on,” Hathi said.

Hathi, who studied computer science at Duke and currently works as a software engineer, started the project in April. He said the idea came out of conversations with colleagues at the Reporters’ Lab and The Chronicle, Duke’s independent student newspaper.

His first reason for initiating the project was to contribute to the fight against fake news.

“A component of [the fake news problem] was that people would read things and not understand where the information was coming from,” Hathi said. “You would have these chain stories where someone would report something and someone else would report it without mentioning who got to it first.”

Hathi said he also wanted to help deliver credit to publications responsible for original reporting. While a writer for The Chronicle, he often watched as local — and sometimes national — news outlets based stories off the paper’s reporting.

“It was always frustrating to us when others would use our reporting and basically get to publish the story on their sites, using the work that we had done without really giving us as much credit as we could have gotten,” he said.

The ultimate goal behind StoryTracer is to elevate readers’ understanding of the news they are consuming, Hathi said.

“I’m not under the illusion that this is going to revolutionize the way people read news,” he said. “But I did want to raise awareness about the fact that it is often easy to confuse what you’re reading with original reporting.”

StoryTracer

The code for StoryTracer is available on GitHub, so beta testers and users can set up and experiment with their own versions of the program. Feedback can be submitted through the Chrome Web Store.

Hathi said he is hoping beta testers will help identify “corner cases where things might not work as expected.” He has already found some complex website designs that disrupt StoryTracer’s ability to locate source reporting. In its current form, StoryTracer can sometimes miss sources that should be recognized as original reporting.

StoryTracer is not Hathi’s first experiment with projects designed to facilitate news consumption. In 2016, he built FactPopUp, a tool that allowed fact-checking organizations to provide live automated fact-checks via Twitter to users watching the live stream of a political event on their computers. He also contributed to the initial programming behind Share the Facts, a widget that helps users spread fact-checks across the internet.

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Kansas Fact Meter

Local fact-checking is hard to find when voters need it most

Reporters' Lab study finds that poor promotion hid much of last year's reporting on the accuracy of political candidates across the U.S.

By Riley Griffin – October 23, 2017 | Print this article

A lot of good fact-checking took place last year at the local level. But good luck finding it.

Regional fact-checkers are not using basic digital publishing practices — such as landing pages, tagging and social media — to promote their fact-checks, according to a report co-authored by Duke Reporters’ Lab co-director Mark Stencel and research coordinator Rebecca Iannucci.

The report, published by the Poynter Institute on Oct. 16, was derived from work by the Lab’s student researchers, who reviewed nearly 40 regional media outlets that fact-checked political claims during last year’s election cycle.

One of those outlets, The Topeka Capital-Journal, did have a landing page for its “Kansas Fact Meter.” But the landing page was inactive and did not showcase the majority of its fact-checks dating back to 2014, or the ones it published after January 2016.

Tim Carpenter, the Capital-Journal’s Statehouse Bureau Chief and the founder of the Kansas Fact Meter, said he did not know the fact-checking project had a landing page, but he admitted it might be beneficial to have one.

“I’ve never done a full accounting [of the Kansas Fact Meter],” Carpenter said in a phone interview with the Reporters’ Lab. “Having a page…people could go to directly — or a link to all of them — is a great idea.”

The Lab’s report noted that local news organizations that partnered with PolitiFact as one of the national fact-checker’s state affiliates got a boost from working with a website that was already structured in ways to help generate traffic. But half of the state and local fact-checking sites the Lab’s student researchers reviewed were more like the Kansas Fact Meter — a standalone project, often championed in the newsroom by handful of journalists, like Carpenter.

Carpenter said he wished regional news organizations had more technological resources and research assistance at hand in order to make fact-checks easily accessible.

“It’s probably my fault for not hitting that designation when I file stories,” he said referring to a specific tag on the Capital-Journal’s publishing platform that would easily group fact-checks on the site. “I will do better.”

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Knight Foundation, Facebook and Craig Newmark provide funding to launch Duke Tech & Check Cooperative

New automated fact-checking project will build apps and coordinate with other researchers around the world

By Bill Adair – September 25, 2017 | Print this article

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project and the Craig Newmark Foundation are awarding grants to the Duke University Reporters’ Lab for a $1.2 million project to automate fact-checking.

The Duke Tech & Check Cooperative will bring together teams from universities and the Internet Archive to develop new ways to automate fact-checking and broaden the audience for this important new form of journalism.

During the two-year project, computer scientists and journalism faculty from Duke, the University of Texas at Arlington and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo will build a variety of new tools and apps. Some will help journalists with time-consuming reporting tasks, such as mining transcripts, media streams and social feeds for the most important factual claims. Others will provide instant pop-up fact-checking during live events.

The Reporters’ Lab will also coordinate and share its automation efforts with journalists and computer scientists across the country and around the world. The Tech & Check Cooperative will connect the leaders of similar projects through its relationships with the International Fact-Checking Network, the global association of fact-checkers, and awardees of Knight Prototype Fund grants to address misinformation. The Lab will host an annual meeting and will hold regular video conferences.

Knight has provided $800,000 for the project and the Facebook Journalism Project has contributed $200,000. The Newmark Foundation has pledged $200,000.

A multitude of people and solutions are required to tackle the problem of misinformation in the digital age. The Reporters’ Lab is tackling the issue through an effective, multi-pronged approach, bringing together a network of journalists and technologists to build new tools that will promote the flow of accurate news, while strengthening their connections with major technology companies,” said Jennifer Preston, the vice president for journalism at Knight Foundation.

“The Duke Tech & Check Cooperative will tap into the power of technology to improve and expand fact-checking on a global scale,” said Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook. “This important initiative will bring together some of the most respected experts in the industry along with new digital innovations to create practical and efficient tools for journalists and newsrooms.”

 “News consumers like me want the truth, which requires more and better fact-checking,” said Newmark, founder of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation. “The Duke University Tech & Check Cooperative will soon become a vital part of the fact-checking network, and I’m excited to work with them to help build a system of information we can trust.”

The Tech & Check Cooperative will incorporate technology and content developed in Share the Facts, a Duke Reporters’ Lab partnership with the Google News Lab and Jigsaw. Share the Facts provides a way for the world’s fact-checkers to identify their articles for search engines and apps.

“Automated fact-checking is no longer just a dream,” said Bill Adair, the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke and the leader of the Tech & Check Cooperative. “Advances in artificial intelligence will soon make it possible to provide people with real-time information about what’s true and what’s not.”

Partners in the Tech & Check Cooperative include:

● The University of Texas at Arlington, which has developed ClaimBuster, a tool that can mine lengthy transcripts for claims that fact-checkers might want to examine.

● The Internet Archive, which will help develop a “Talking Point Tracker” that will identify factual claims that are used repeatedly by politicians and pundits.

● Truth Goggles, a project created by developer Dan Schultz and the Bad Idea Factory to provide pop-up fact-checking for articles on the web.

● Digital Democracy, an initiative of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, which will develop ways to identify factual claims from video of legislative proceedings in California.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit  knightfoundation.org.

About Facebook

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

The Facebook Journalism Project was created in January 2017 to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry.  FJP focuses on three pillars: collaborative development of new products; tools and trainings for journalists; and tools and trainings for people.

About Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is a Web pioneer, philanthropist, and leading advocate on behalf of trustworthy journalism, voting rights, veterans and military families, and other civic and social justice causes. In 2017, he became a founding funder and executive committee member of the News Integrity Initiative, administered by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which seeks to advance news literacy and increase trust in journalism.

About the Reporters’ Lab

The Duke Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at the Sanford School of Public Policy. The Lab conducts research into fact-checking and explores how automation can be used to help journalists and broaden audiences for their work.

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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes From Day 3

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, which took place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin & Rebecca Iannucci – July 8, 2017 | Print this article

The Global Fact 4 summit came to a close Friday, after much reflection on the last year of fact-checking and discussion about future advancements in the industry.

Ana Pastor, director and anchor of Spain’s El Objetivo, and Guillermo Solovey of the Instituto de Cálculo held a Q&A on the rejection of facts by polarized populations. Later, Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, argued that individual claims should no longer be the “atomic unit” of fact-checks. Following a presentation by representatives from Facebook and Google, and a panel on fake news, the day ended in a standing ovation for Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the organizer of the conference.

Below is our final roundup of noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides.

Tweet of the day

Áine Kerr, manager of journalism partnerships at Facebook, and Philippe Colombet, head of strategic partnerships for news and publishers at Google, held a joint panel on how their respective platforms could benefit fact-checkers. During the Q&A, Mantzarlis asked the two technology experts if they would be willing to share data and metrics concerning the impact of their news initiatives with journalists. After Kerr and Colombet struggled to provide a definitive answer, some fact-checkers tweeted their concern about the lack of transparency between tech companies and the media. Phoebe Arnold, head of communications and impact at Full Fact, documented the moment in the tweet above. 

 Slide of the day

Aaron Sharockman, executive director of PolitiFact, led a presentation called “Funding for fact-checking: beyond foundations,” to teach resource-deficient organizations how to generate revenue, capitalize on crowdfunding and find investors. To emphasize his message, Sharockman put up a slide with a personal quote: “You cannot begin to charge for something until you know what it actually costs.” Sharockman’s parting advice to fact-checkers was to know their own value in the current political landscape and to take advantage of the increased awareness of the industry. 

Quote of the day

“Everyone says they’re interested in truth, but I’m not sure that they are.” — Ana Pastor, director of El Objetivo

Trust was a central topic of Friday’s Global Fact discussions, particularly as it applies to the waning trust between fact-checkers and their audience. During Pastor and Solovey’s conversation, they both addressed a major frustration for fact-checkers: Readers often reject facts that don’t align with their beliefs, choosing instead to live in a “news bubble” that only accepts one side of an argument.

“Realizing that something is a lie doesn’t change their perspectives,” Solovey said of readers who are deeply entrenched in their stances. Pastor also noted that “people don’t want their ideas questioned, they want them reaffirmed,” which contributes significantly to an audience’s lack of trust in fact-checkers and the collective media. 

For more coverage from Global Fact 4, check out the following articles:

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Google Home

Fact-checking moves into the Google Home

At Global Fact 4 in Madrid, we unveiled our new Share the Facts app for the Google device and six new languages for our widget.

By Erica Ryan – July 8, 2017 | Print this article

A new Reporters’ Lab app allows users to “talk to Share the Facts.”

The new app for the Google Home taps the growing database of articles from the world’s fact-checkers to provide answers to voice queries. It is part of our Share the Facts project, which is expanding the reach of fact-checking around the world.

The Google Home app features fact-checks of claims by politicians and other public figures from Share the Facts partner organizations, including PolitiFact, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and FactCheck.org.

The Share the Facts app, which is similar to one unveiled last fall for the Amazon Echo, uses natural speech recognition to analyze and answer questions from our database of roughly 9,000 fact-checks.

To activate it on your Google Home, say: “OK, Google, talk to Share the Facts.” Then ask questions such as:

  • “Did Donald Trump oppose the war in Iraq?”
  • “Was Obamacare a failure?”
  • “Is it true that Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax?”

Try to use the most important keywords in your question, following the examples above.

We welcome feedback on the Share the Facts app for the Google Home by emailing project manager Erica Ryan.

The app was unveiled at Global Fact 4 in Madrid, Spain, the annual meeting of the International Fact-Checking Network.

We also announced that the Share the Facts widget, which has been available in English, French, Polish and Italian, now has versions in German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Indonesian, Hindi and Japanese. The project is a partnership with the Google News Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet.  

The widget allows fact-checkers to get a “Fact Check” tag for their content in Google News and search results. Google uses the “Fact Check” label, launched in 2016, to find and distribute accurate content and to increase the visibility of quality journalism.

The widget also offers other benefits for fact-checkers. Each widget is a concise summary of a fact-check that can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Participating fact-checkers can also be featured in new products like the Share the Facts apps for the Google Home and the Amazon Echo.

Three partners are testing the widget in the newly available languages: Aos Fatos of Brazil, Wiener Zeitung of Austria and El Confidencial of Spain. We hope to expand the widget soon to publishers in Indonesia, Japan and India.

Organizations interested in using the Share the Facts widget can find more information on the Share the Facts website or by emailing team@sharethefacts.org.

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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes from Day 2

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, taking place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin – July 7, 2017 | Print this article

The second day of Global Fact 4 kicked off with welcome remarks from Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, Ana Pastor, anchorwoman for El Objetivo, and Bill Adair, director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Panels, Q&As, and breakout workshops took a deep dive into subjects ranging from automatic fact-checking to collaborative partnerships between media outlets. Highlights included Michelle Lee, who presented on the Washington Post’s latest project for fact-checking Donald Trump, and Wikimedia Foundation executive director Katherine Maher, who delivered a keynote speech about “the approximation of the truth.”

Each day, we’ll be collecting noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides. Below are the highlights from Day 2 of the conference.

Tweet of the day

Farhad Souzanchi, the editor of Iran’s FactNameh, documented the crowd of 188 fact-checkers from 53 countries attending the plenary conference. Among the group were members from seven new fact-checking initiatives, based in such countries as South Korea and Norway.

Slide of the day

Full Fact, a nonprofit fact-checker in the United Kingdom, has partnered with Google to create innovative technologies for journalists. During a panel on automated fact-checking tools, Full Fact’s digital products manager, Mevan Babakar, explained the complex process of developing new fact-checking tools   like Trends and Robocheck — that identify viral disinformation and display pop-up fact-checks in real time. Referring to the slide, which illustrated the back end of an automated fact-checking tool, Babakar said, “This isn’t really sexy, but the products are.” Full Fact’s tools are still at the prototype stage, according to Babakar, but she anticipates they will one day be scalable across the industry.

Quote of the day

“At Wikipedia, we believe that an approximation of truth is all we can ever strive for.” — Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation

At the Wikimedia Foundation — the nonprofit organization that hosts Wikipedia — truth is an imperfect entity. The truth is malleable, biased, incomplete and ever-changing with the whims of history, executive director Katherine Maher said in her keynote speech. Although Maher does not consider herself a fact-checker, she believes in the pursuit of facts. During her speech, and in a Q&A with Poynter, Maher described how fact-checkers can take cues from Wikipedia when it comes to gaining readers’ trust and being as transparent as possible.

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Global Fact 4

Global Fact 4: Notes from Day 1

A compilation of highlights from the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, taking place July 5-7 in Madrid

By Riley Griffin & Rebecca Iannucci – July 6, 2017 | Print this article

Global Fact 4, the annual gathering of fact-checkers around the world, is taking place July 5-7 in Madrid. Each day, we’ll be collecting noteworthy moments from the summit, from social media interactions to memorable slides. Below are the highlights from Day 1 of the conference.

Tweet of the day

The International Fact-Checking Network informally launched Global Fact 4 with a series of workshops about best practices for fact-checking, innovative tools and platforms for fact-checkers and the IFCN Code of Principles. Conference attendees can use #GlobalFact4 to contribute to the international dialogue surrounding fact-checking, fake news and freedom of the press.

Slide of the day

PolitiFact editor Angie Holan and Chequeado director Laura Zommer lectured 55 emerging fact-checkers on fundamental dos and don’ts of the practice during the Fact-Checking 101 workshop. For a claim to be checkable, Holan said it has to be feasible, factual and relevant, with enough evidence to deliver a verdict. Holan also said any claim based on an opinion does not meet those criteria — and journalists should avoid fact-checking them.

But it is not always that simple. Discerning factual claims from opinion is often difficult, Holan said. To illustrate her point, she brought up a statement from the National Republican Congressional Committee that sparked debate in the PolitiFact newsroom: “ISIS is infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it.” Was the claim checkable or not? Was it based on empirical evidence or opinion? Ultimately, PolitiFact determined there was sufficient empirical evidence to check the claim and come to a verdict: false.

Quote of the day

“Thanks to Donald Trump, ordinary Japanese people understand exactly what fake news is.” — John Middleton, co-founder of FactCheck Initiative Japan

The founders of FactCheck Initiative Japan spoke with the Reporters’ Lab about the need for fact-checking in a country where government influence and fake news are infecting public debate and news coverage. Middleton, a law professor at Hitotsubashi University, noted that misinformation had long existed in the Japanese media landscape, but the public did not take it seriously until Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

FactCheck Initiative Japan is one of at least seven new fact-checking operations attending Global Fact for the first time.

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At Global Fact 4: churros, courage and the need to expose propagandists

The next challenge for the Global Fact community: calling out governments and political actors that pretend to be fact-checkers.

By Bill Adair – July 6, 2017 | Print this article

My opening remarks at Global Fact 4, the fourth annual meeting of the world’s fact-checkers, organized by the International Fact-Checking Network and the Reporters’ Lab, held July 5-7, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.

It’s wonderful to be here in Madrid. I’ve been enjoying the city the last two days, which has made me think of a giant warehouse store we have in the United States called Costco.

Costco where you go when you want to buy 10 pounds of American Cheese or a 6-pound tub of potato salad. Costco also makes a delicious fried pastry called a “churro.” And because everything in Costco is big, the churros are about three feet long.

When I got to Madrid I was really glad to see that you have churros here, too! It’s wonderful to see that Costco is spreading its great cuisine around the world!

I’m pleased to be here with my colleagues from the Duke Reporters’ Lab — Mark Stencel, Rebecca Iannucci and Riley Griffin. We also have our Share the Facts team here – Chris Guess and Erica Ryan. We’ll be sampling the churros throughout the week!

It’s been an amazing year for fact-checking. In the U.K., Full Fact and Channel 4 mobilized for Brexit and last month’s parliamentary elections. In France, the First Draft coalition showed the power of collaborations during the elections there. In the United States, the new president and his administration drove record traffic to sites such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker — and that has continued since the election, a time when sites typically have lower traffic. The impeachments and political scandals in Brazil and South Korea also meant big audiences for fact-checkers in those countries. And we expect the upcoming elections in Germany, Norway and elsewhere will generate many opportunities for fact-checkers in those countries as well, just as we’ve seen in Turkey and Iran. The popular demand for fact-checking has never been stronger.

Fact-checking is now so well known that it is part of pop culture. Comedians cite our work to give their jokes credibility. On Saturday Night Live last fall, Australian actress Margot Robbie “fact-checked” her opening monologue when she was the guest host.

Some news organizations not only have their own dedicated fact-checking teams, they’re also incorporating fact-checks in their news stories, calling out falsehoods at the moment they are uttered. This is a marvelous development because it helps to debunk falsehoods before they can take root.

We’ve also seen tremendous progress in automation to spread fact-checking to new audiences. There are promising projects underway at Full Fact in Britain and at the University of Texas in Arlington and in our own lab at Duke, among many others. We’ll be talking a lot about these projects this week.

Perhaps the most important development in the past year is one that we started at last year’s Global Fact conference in Buenos Aires – the Code of Principles. We came up with some excellent principles that set standards for transparency and non-partisan work. As Alexios noted, Facebook is using the code to determine which organizations qualify to debunk fake news. I hope your site will abide by the code and become a signatory.

At Duke, Mark just finished our annual summer count of fact-checking. Mark and Alexios like to tease me that I can’t stop repeating this mantra: “Fact-checking keeps growing.”

But it’s become my mantra because it’s true: When we held our first Global Fact meeting in 2014 in London, our Reporters’ Lab database listed 48 fact-checking sites around the world. Our latest count shows 126 active projects in 49 countries.

I’m thrilled to see fact-checking sprouting in countries such as South Korea and Germany and Brazil. And I continue to be amazed at the courage of our colleagues who check claims in Turkey and Iran, which are not very welcoming to our unique kind of journalism.

As our movement grows, we face new challenges. Now that our work is so well-known and an established form of journalism, governments and political actors are calling themselves fact-checkers, using our approach to produce propaganda. We need to speak out against this and make sure people know that government propagandists are not fact-checkers.

We also need to work harder to reach audiences that have been reluctant to accept our work. At Duke we published a study that showed a stark partisan divide in the United States. We found liberal publications loved fact-checking and often cited it; conservative sites criticized it and often belittled it. We need to focus on this problem and find new ways to reach reluctant audiences.

I’m confident we can accomplish these things. Individually and together we’ve overcome great hurdles in the past few years. I look forward to a productive meeting and a great year. And I’m confident:

Fact-checking will keep growing.

 

 

 

 

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