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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Repoeters' Lab map

Fact-checking booms as numbers grow by 20 percent

With fact-checkers gathering for annual Global Fact summit, a Reporters’ Lab tally finds 17 new projects around the world. (But still not in Antarctica.)

By Mark Stencel – June 30, 2017 | Print this article

The 200-person attendee list for next week’s Global Fact 4 summit in Madrid is up 80 from last year’s meeting in Buenos Aires, and more than twice what it was in London two years ago. And with good reason: The number of fact-checkers has been growing too, driven by concerns about a global epidemic of misinformation, viral hoaxes and official lying.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab database of international fact-checking initiatives now counts 126 active projects in 49 countries. That’s up 20 percent from the 105 projects we tallied a year ago. And that year-over-year increase continues the growth we found in for our most recent annual fact-checking census in February.

Active Fact-Checkers by Continent
Africa: 4
Asia: 14
Australia: 2
Europe: 46
North America: 47
South America: 13

NOTE: All the numbers presented throughout this article are as of June 30, 2017. An updated map, global tally and country-by-country lists are available on the Reporters’ Lab fact-checking page.

It’s great to see so many new sites: 17 of the 126 fact-checkers opened for business in the past 12 months. One of the newest, the Ferret Fact Service in Edinburgh, launched just nine weeks ago. And there was the welcome return of Australia’s ABC. Government funding cuts ended that project last year, but it returned from an 11-month hiatus on June 5 as a jointly branded partnership of the public broadcasting company and RMIT University in Melbourne. And the same Toronto-based team of technology activists that built a site four years ago to track Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign promises launched a new fact-checking service in April: Fact-Nameh (“The Book of Facts”), the PolitiFact of Iran.

Of the fact-checkers that launched in the past year, seven were in Europe, four were in North America, three were in Asia and three were in South America. And all appeared in countries with roiling political situations plagued by false claims and misinformation that made global headlines — from presidential impeachments (Brazil and South Korea) to an attempted coup (Turkey) to intense immigration fights (everywhere!) to nationwide campaigns and voting (South Korea and Turkey again, plus Austria, Iran, Italy, Kosovo, the U.K and, um, the U.S. — with Germany’s turn coming in September).

If ever there was a time for fact-checking, this was it.

The United States is home to a third (42) of the fact-checkers we track. We also found that 16 other countries have at least two fact-checking projects, and seven of those have three or more, including Brazil (8), the United Kingdom (6), France (5), South Korea (5), Ukraine (4) and Canada (3).

We saw an encouraging sign about quality: One-fifth of the fact-checkers in the database (25 of the 126) are already verified signatories of International Fact-Checking Network’s newly established Code of Principles. And that number will grow because independent evaluators are reviewing additional applications. The code was written by an IFCN committee last summer to encourage best practices such as fairness, a commitment to correcting errors, and transparency on sources, methodology and funding. Facebook is using IFCN’s Code to identify trustworthy non-partisan fact-checking partners to help flag fake news and other misinformation.

Most of the sites, about six out of 10, are affiliated with established news media organizations. The rest are a mix of independent journalism and research projects, many of which are affiliated with universities, think tanks and non-governmental groups instead of existing media companies.

The ties to media companies are especially common in the United States, where 83 percent of fact-checkers (35 of 42) are operated by or closely affiliated with bigger news organizations. In the rest of the world, a bit over half (44 of 84, or 52 percent) have direct news media ties. But that mix may be shifting. In our 2016 census, less than half of the fact-checkers outside the U.S. were part of a larger media house (24 of 55, or 44 percent).

If you’re keeping track of all these numbers, you better write them down in pencil and be ready for updates. We still have a pending list of other fact-checkers we need to evaluate, including some whose staff we look forward to meeting at the Madrid summit. (Here’s an explanation of how the Reporters’ Lab identifies the fact-checkers we include in our database. In addition to journalism that fairly examines the accuracy of statements by public figures and institutions, we also look for authoritative, nonpartisan reporting on the progress of political promises and the credibility of widely shared online sources of information and misinformation.)

The healthy growth we’ve measured since last year’s Global Fact conference comes even after we had to move more than a dozen other fact-checkers to inactive status. In fact, at this point we have a list of more than five dozen inactive fact-checking initiatives.

That kind of fluctuation and turnover is consistent with the natural attrition we’ve tracked over the past several years — with many fact-checkers springing up for campaigns and then going dark. Some election-oriented fact-checkers will reliably return for the next campaign. That requires us to continuously determine which projects are hibernating comfortably and which have met their ultimate fact-checking fate. But since we can now base those choices on several years of observation, we now leave these seasonal fact-checkers marked as “active” in our database, noting their campaign focus in our descriptions. And we are continuously finding established fact-checkers who previously escaped our notice, which also adds to the growing tally. If you’re one of them, please let us know.

The Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School for Public Policy. We started the fact-checking database three years ago to track the reach and impact of this journalism. It also supports the Lab’s efforts to develop tools and services that help fact-checkers report and disseminate their work to a bigger audience. That includes Share the Facts, a project that helps fact-checkers distribute their reporting on other websites and platforms, including devices such as the Amazon Echo. Google also has used the Lab’s fact-checking database in its recent efforts to elevate fact-checks in search results and on the redesigned Google News page.

This update is based on research compiled over several months in part by Reporters’ Lab student researcher Hank Tucker. Alexios Mantzarlis of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network also contributed, as did Reporters’ Lab director Bill Adair, Knight Professor for the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University (and founder of PolitiFact). Thanks also to Cristina Tardáguila of Agência Lupa in Brazil, Itziar Bernaola of El Objetivo in Spain, Boyoung Lim of Newstapa in South Korea, and many other fact-checkers around the world who help us keep up with this fast-growing form of journalism.

Please send updates and additions to Reporters’ Lab co-director Mark Stencel (mark.stencel@duke.edu).

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Heroes or hacks: The partisan divide over fact-checking

We analyzed nearly 800 references to fact-checking and found a stark divide. Liberal writers like fact-checking; conservatives don't.

By Bill Adair & Rebecca Iannucci – June 7, 2017 | Print this article

Conservative writers aren’t fond of fact-checking. They belittle it and complain that it’s biased. They say it’s “left-leaning” and use sarcastic quotes (“fact-checking”) to suggest it’s not legitimate. One writer likens PolitiFact to a Bangkok prostitute.

Liberal writers admire fact-checking. They cite it favorably and use positive adjectives such as “independent”  and “nonpartisan.” They refer to fact-checkers as “watchdogs” and “heroes.”

To examine partisan differences over fact-checking, we analyzed some of the most widely read conservative and liberal sites. Our students in the Duke Reporters’ Lab identified 792 statements that referred to fact-checkers or their work. We found a stark partisan divide in the tone, the type of references and even the adjectives the writers used.

Our report, Heroes or hacks: The partisan divide over fact-checking, reveals a serious problem for the growing number of fact-checkers, journalists who research and rate the accuracy of political statements. They emphasize their neutrality and nonpartisan approach, but they face relentless criticism from the political right that says they are biased and incompetent.

Our analysis found:

  • Liberal websites were far more likely to cite fact-checks to make their points than conservative sites were.
  • Conservative sites were much more likely to criticize fact-checks and to allege partisan bias.
  • When our student researchers categorized the tone of mentions, we found liberal sites made most of the positive references, while the negative references came primarily from the right.
  • Conservative sites made the most critical comments about fact-checking, occasionally using quotation marks (“fact-checking”) to imply it wasn’t legitimate.

(Read the full report.)

We found the most revealing differences in the words the writers used to describe fact-checkers and their work.

Liberals emphasize they are nonpartisan and call them “respected,” “reputable” and “independent.” Fact-checkers are “watchdogs” or “heroes.” PolitiFact is described as “Pulitzer Prize-winning.”

Conservatives use words such as “left-leaning,” “biased,” “hackiest” and “serial-lying.” They question the legitimacy of fact-checkers by calling them “self-proclaimed.”

The most wicked criticism came from Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, who called PolitiFact “the hackiest and most biased of the fact-checking outfits, which bends over like a Bangkok hooker to defend Democrats.”

Our findings indicate that fact-checkers have some work to do. They need to strengthen their outreach to conservative journalists and, particularly, to conservative audiences. The fact-checkers need to understand the reasons for the partisan divide and find ways to broaden the acceptance of their work.

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