“Fact-checking database”

Duke students tackle big challenges in automated fact-checking

Trio assembled promising building blocks needed for live fact-checking

By Catherine Clabby – October 8, 2018 | Print this article

Three Duke computer science majors advanced the quest for what some computer scientists say is the Holy Grail in fact-checking this summer.

Caroline Wang, Ethan Holland and Lucas Fagan tackled major challenges to creating an automated system that can both detect factual claims while politicians speak and instantly provide fact-checks.

That required finding and customizing state-of-art computing tools that most journalists would not recognize. A collective fondness for that sort of challenge helped, a lot.

Duke junior Caroline Wang

“We had a lot of fun discussing all the different algorithms out there, and just learning what machine learning techniques had been applied to natural language processing,” said Wang, a junior also majoring in math.

Wang and her partners took on the assignment for a Data+ research project. Part of the Information Initiative at Duke, Data+ invites students and faculty to find data-driven solutions to research challenges confronting scholars on campus.

The fact-checking team convened in a Gross Hall conference from 9 am to 4 pm every weekday for 10 weeks to help each other figure out how to help achieve live fact-checking, a goal of Knight journalism professor Bill Adair and other practitioners of accountability journalism.

Their goal was to do something of a “rough cut” of end-to-end automated fact-checking: to convert a political speech to text, identify the most “checkable” sentences in the speech and then match them with previously published fact-checks.

The students concluded that Google Cloud Speech-to-Text API was the best available tool to automate audio transcriptions. They then submitted the sentences to ClaimBuster, a project at the University of Texas at Arlington that the Duke Tech & Check Cooperative uses to identify statements that merit fact-checking. ClaimBuster acted as a helpful filter that reduced the number of claims submitted to the database, which in turn reduced processing time.

They chose Google Cloud speech-to-text because it can infer where punctuation belongs, Holland said. That yields text divided into complete thoughts. Google speech-to-text also shares transcription results while it processes the audio, rather than waiting until translation is done. That speeds up how fast the new text can get moved to the next steps along a fact-checking pipeline.

Duke junior Ethan Holland

“Google will say: This is my current take and this is my current confidence that take is right. That lets you cut down on the lag,” said Holland, a junior whose second major is statistics.

Their next step was finding ways to match the claims from that speech with the database of fact-checks that came from the Lab’s Share the Facts project. (The database contains thousands of articles published by the Washington Post, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact, each checking an individual claim.)

To do that, the students adapted an algorithm that the open-source research outfit OpenAI released in June, after the students started working together. The algorithm builds on The Transformer, a new neural network computing architecture that Google researchers published just six months prior.

Duke sophomore Lucas Fagan

The architecture alters how computers organize trying to understand written language. Instead of translating a sentence word by word, The Transformer weighs the importance of each word to the meaning of every other word. Over time that system helps machines discern meaning in more and more sentences more quickly.

“It’s a lot more like learning English. You grow up hearing it and your learn it,” said Fagan, a sophomore also majoring in math.

Work by Wang, Holland and Fagan is expected to help jumpstart a Bass Connections fact-checking team that started this fall. Students on that team will continue the hunt for better strategies to find statements that are good fact-check candidates, produce pop-up fact-checks and create apps to deliver this accountability journalism to more people.

Tech & Check has $1.2 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project and the Craig Newmark Foundation to tackle that job.

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Africa Check rating

The number of fact-checkers around the world: 156… and growing

Collaboration, aggregation and networks add to the Reporters' Lab ongoing survey of fact-checking projects in more than 50 countries.

By Mark Stencel – August 7, 2018 | Print this article

The number of active fact-checking projects around the world now stands at 156, with steady growth driven by expanding networks and new media partnerships that focus on holding public figures and organizations accountable for what they say.

And elections this year in the United States and around the globe mean that number will likely increase even more by the time the Duke Reporters’ Lab publishes its annual census early next year. Our map of the fact-checkers now shows them in 55 countries.

There were 149 active fact-checking ventures in the annual summary we published in February, up from 44 when we started this count in 2014. And after this summer’s Global Fact summit in Rome — where the attendee list topped 200 and the waitlist was more than three times as long — we still have plenty of other possible additions to vet and review in the coming weeks. So check back for updates.

Among the most recent additions is Faktiskt, a Swedish media partnership that aggregates reporting from five news organizations — two newspapers, two public broadcasters and a digital news service. We’ve seen other aggregation partnerships like this elsewhere, such as Faktenfinder in Germany and SNU FactCheck in South Korea. (This is a different model from the similarly named Faktisk partnership in Norway, where six news organizations operate a jointly funded fact-checking team whose work is made freely available as a public service to other media in the country.)

As we prepare for our annual fact-checking census, we plan to look more closely at the output of each contributor to these aggregation networks to see which of them we should also count as standalone fact-checkers. Our goal is to represent the full range of independent and journalistic fact-checking, including clusters of projects in particular countries and local regions, as well as ventures that find ways to operate across borders.

Along those lines, we also added checkmarks to our map for Africa Check‘s offices in Kenya and Nigeria. We had done the same previously for the South Africa-based project’s office in Senegal, which covers francophone countries in West Africa. The new additions have been around awhile too: The Kenya office has been in business since late 2016 and the Nigeria office opened two months later.

Meanwhile, our friends at Africa Check regularly help us identify other standalone fact-checking projects, including two more new additions to our database: Dubawa in Nigeria and ZimFact in Zimbabwe. The fast growth of fact-checking across Africa is one reason the International Fact-Checking Network’s sixth Global Fact summit will be in Cape Town next summer.

One legacy of these yearly summits is IFCN’s code of principles, and the code has established an independent evaluation process to certify that each of its signatories adheres to those ethical and journalistic standards. Our database includes all 58 signatories, including the U.S.-based (but Belgium-born) hoax-busting site Lead Stories; Maldita’s “Maldito Bulo” (or “Damned Hoax”) in Spain; and the “cek facta” section of the Indonesian digital news portal Liputan6. All three are among our latest additions.

There’s more to come from us. We plan to issue monthly updates as we try to keep our heads and arms around this fast-growing journalism movement. I’ll be relying heavily on Reporters’ Lab student researcher Daniela Flamini, who has just returned from a summer fact-checking internship at Chequeado in Argentina. Daniela takes over from recently graduated researcher Riley Griffin, who helped maintain our database for the past year.

Take a look at the criteria we use to select the fact-checkers we include in this database and let us know if you have any additions to suggest.

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Fact-checking census

Fact-checking triples over four years

The annual fact-checking census from the Reporters' Lab finds 31 percent growth in the past year alone, and signs that many verification projects are becoming more stable.

By Mark Stencel & Riley Griffin – February 22, 2018 | Print this article

The number of fact-checkers around the world has more than tripled over the past four years, increasing from 44 to 149 since the Duke Reporters’ Lab first began counting these projects in 2014 — a 239 percent increase. And many of those fact-checkers in 53 countries are also showing considerable staying power.

This is the fifth time the Reporters’ Lab has tallied up the organizations where reporters and researchers verify statements by public figures and organizations and keep tabs on other sources of misinformation, particularly social media. In each annual census, we have seen steady increases on almost every continent — and the past year was no different.

The 2018 global count is up by nearly a third (31 percent) over the 114 projects we included in last year’s census. While some of that year-over-year change comes because we discovered established fact-checking ventures that we hadn’t yet counted in our past surveys, we also added 21 fact-checking projects that launched since the start of 2017, including one — Tempo’s “Fakta atau Hoax” in Indonesia — that opened for business a month ago.

2018 fact-checking censusAnd that list of startups does not count one short-run fact-checking project — a TV series produced by public broadcaster NRK for Norway’s national election last year. That series is now among the 63 inactive fact-checkers we count on our regularly updated map, list and database. Faktisk, a Norwegian fact-checking partnership that several media companies launched in 2017, remains active.

Elections are often catalysts for political watchdog projects. In addition to the two Norwegian projects, national or regional voting helped spur new fact-checking efforts in Indonesia, South Korea, France, Germany and Chile.

Fact-Checkers By Continent
Africa:4
Asia: 22
Australia: 3
Europe : 52
North America: 53
South America: 15

Many of the fact-checkers we follow have shown remarkable longevity.

Based on the 143 projects whose launch dates we know for certain, 41 (29 percent) have been in business for more than five years. And a diverse group of six have already celebrated 10 years of nearly continuous operation — from 23-year-old Snopes.com, the grandparent of hoax-busting, to locally focused “Reality Checks” from  WISC-TV (News 3) in Madison, Wisconsin, which started fact-checking political statements in 2004. Some long-term projects have occasionally shuttered between election cycles before resuming their work. And some overcame significant funding gaps to come back from the dead.

On average, fact-checking organizations have been around four years.
One change we have noted over the past few years is some shifting in the kind of organizations that are involved in fact-checking and the way they do business. The U.S. fact-checker PolitiFact, for instance, began as an independent project of the for-profit Tampa Bay Times in 2007. With its recently announced move to Poynter Institute, a media training center in St. Petersburg, Florida, that is also the Times’ owner, PolitiFact now has nonprofit status and is no longer directly affiliated with a larger news company.

That’s unusual move for a project in the U.S., where most fact-checkers (41 of 47, or 87 percent) are directly affiliated with newspapers, television networks and other established news outlets. The opposite is the case outside the U.S., where a little more than half of the fact-checkers are directly affiliated (54 of 102, or 53 percent).

The non-media fact-checkers include projects that are affiliated with universities, think tanks and non-partisan watchdogs focused on government accountability. Others are independent, standalone fact-checkers, including a mix of nonprofit and commercial operations as well as a few that are primarily run by volunteers.

Fact-checkers, like other media outlets, are also seeking new ways to stay afloat — from individual donations and membership programs to syndication plans and contract research services. Facebook has enlisted fact-checkers in five countries to help with the social platform’s sometimes bumpy effort to identify and label false information that pollutes its News Feed. (Facebook also is a Reporter’s Lab funder, we should note.) And our Lab’s Google-supported Share the Facts project helped that company  elevate fact-checking on its news page and other platforms. That’s a development that creates larger audiences that are especially helpful to the big-media fact-checkers that depend heavily on digital ad revenue.

Growing Competition

The worldwide growth in fact-checking means more countries have multiple reporting teams keeping an ear out for claims that need their scrutiny.

Last year there were 11 countries with more than one active fact-checker. This year, we counted more than one fact-checker in 22 countries, and more than two in 11 countries.

Countries With More Than Two Fact-Checkers
United States: 47
Brazil: 8
France: 7
United Kingdom: 6
South Korea: 5
India: 4
Germany: 4
Ukraine: 4
Canada: 4
Italy: 3
Spain: 3

There’s also growing variety among the fact-checkers. Our database now includes several science fact-checkers, such as Climate Feedback at the University of California Merced’s Center for Climate Communication and Détecteur de Rumeurs from Agence Science-Presse in Montreal. Or there’s New York-based Gossip Cop, an entertainment news fact-checking site led since 2009 by a “reformed gossip columnist.” (Gossip Cop is also another example of a belated discovery that only appeared on our fact-checking radar in the past year.)

As the fact-checking community around the world has grown, so has the International Fact-Checking Network. Launched in 2015, it too is based at Poynter, the new nonprofit home of PolitiFact. The network has established a shared Code of Principles as well as a process for independent evaluators to verify its signatories’ compliance. So far, about a third of the fact-checkers counted in this census, 47 of 149, have been verified.

The IFCN also holds an annual conference for fact-checkers that is co-sponsored by the Reporters’ Lab. There is already a wait list of hundreds of people for this June’s gathering in Rome.

U.S. Fact-Checking

The United States still has far more fact-checkers than any other country, but growth in the U.S. was slower in 2017 than in the past. For the first time, we counted fewer fact-checkers in the United States (47) than there were in Europe (52).

While the U.S. count ticked up slightly from 43 a year ago, some of that increase came from the addition of newly added long-timers to our database — such as the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek magazine and the The Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville, Florida. Another of those established additions was the first podcast in our database: “Science Vs.” But that was an import. “Science Vs.” began as a project at the Australian public broadcaster ABC in 2015 before it found its U.S. home a year later at Gimlet Media, a commercial podcasting company based in New York.

Among the new U.S. additions are two traditionally conservative media outlets: The Daily Caller (and its fact-checking offshoot Check Your Fact) and The Weekly Standard. To comply with the IFCN’s Code of Principles, both organizations have set up internal processes to insulate their fact-checkers from the reporting and commentary both publications are best known for.

Another new addition was the The Nevada Independent, a nonprofit news service that focuses on state politics. Of the 47 U.S. fact-checkers, 28 are regionally oriented, including the 11 state affiliates that partner with PolitiFact.

We originally expected the U.S. number would drop in a year between major elections, as we wrote in December, so the small uptick was a surprise. With this year’s upcoming midterm elections, we expect to see even more fact-checking in the U.S. in 2018.

The Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School for Public Policy. It is led by journalism professor Bill Adair, who was also PolitiFact’s founding editor. The Lab’s staff and student researchers identify and evaluate fact-checkers that specifically focus on the accuracy of statements by public figures and institutions in ways that are fair, nonpartisan and transparent. See this explainer about how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the database. In addition to studying the reach and impact of fact-checking, the Lab is home to the Tech & Check Cooperative, a multi-institutional project to develop automated reporting tools and applications that help fact-checkers spread their work to larger audiences more quickly.

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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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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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Fact-checking map

Fact-checkers’ reach keeps growing around the globe

We’ve updated our map to make it easier to navigate 10 dozen active sites and projects the Reporters’ Lab is monitoring around the world.

By Mark Stencel – November 22, 2016 | Print this article

The 2016 U.S. election has involved a slew of misstatements from both presidential candidates, with no shortage of Pinocchios, “whoppers,” flip-flops and other “lowlights.” And that will certainly continue long after the ballots are officially counted.

More than 50 fact-checkers across the United States helped voters sort facts from fibs in this campaign year. With 2017 looking like another big year for truthiness and misstatements, the Duke Reporters’ Lab is rolling out some improvements on the global map we use to track this important journalism.

Based on our current count, fact-checkers are already on the job in at least 10 countries where voters will be casting ballots in the coming year, including Argentina, Chile, Czech Republic, France, India, Kenya, Netherlands, Senegal, Serbia and South Korea.

Overall, we currently count 119 active fact-checkers in 44 countries. And there are multiple fact-checkers working in 12 countries.

Because fact-checking is concentrated in many cities, making the checkmarks on our map overlap, we’ve added a clustering feature that will help users find and navigate the places where we have listed multiple teams.

The map now distinguishes the active fact-checkers (shown with red pins) from the more than 40 others that have closed for one reason or another (they’re indicated by gray pins). The map also has an up-to-date tally of both the active and inactive projects. You can click on that box to look at one category or the other.

Country-by-country lists, including a tally of active projects, are available with the “Browse in List” link (find it to the right of the map).

We regularly add new fact-checkers and review the status of older ones, so our tally sometimes goes up and down. We know from past years that some U.S. fact-checkers will close for the “off-season” and the same is true in other countries.

We’re always on the lookout for fact-checkers, including those that look at issues other than politics. One example is New York-based Gossip Cop — a recent addition to our database that’s been debunking celebrity rumors since 2009.

Other recent additions include US. fact-checkers at the Cincinnati Enquirer in Ohio and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. We also added or reactivated four others that came out of hibernation for the election.

International additions include established projects in Denmark, France and Japan, and newer initiatives in Kenya and Lithuania.

If you see a fact-checking venture we’re missing, please let us know: mark.stencel@duke.edu

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U.S. map

The facts about fact-checking across America

Local media is cranking up the scrutiny in 22 states and D.C. as the 2016 campaign season intensifies

By Mark Stencel – August 3, 2016 | Print this article

The U.S. presidential candidates aren’t the only ones getting scrutinized by political fact-checkers. A growing number of state and local media watchdogs are keeping a close eye on the statements of politicians closer to home, too.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab global database of fact-checking ventures counts 34 active state and local fact-checkers across the country. These initiatives vet the accuracy of the people holding and seeking office in 22 states and the District of Columbia. That includes 18 of the 34 states electing senators in 2016, three of which — Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina — also happen to be holding some of the year’s closest governor’s races.

These state and local efforts represent more than two-thirds of the 47 active fact-checking efforts across the United States. The other 13 primarily focus on national politics. They include long-running sites and columns, such as FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, the Washington Post Fact Checker and the Associated Press, as well as the work of other big media companies that pay attention national political players, especially when there’s a presidential election.

But that scrutiny is increasing in down-ballot races too.

Here are a few trends worth noting among the state and local fact checkers, including some of the similarities and differences with those doing the same kind of work nationally and around the world:

The News Media’s Role

Most U.S. fact-checkers are professional journalists. All but two of the 34 state and local fact-checkers are affiliated with regional media organizations, including 18 that are linked to newspaper companies and 12 that are tied to local TV news stations.

The fact-checking team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is both — a joint project of the Gazette newspaper and local ABC affiliate KCRG-TV. And one site, PolitiFact Florida, involves two newspaper partners — the Miami Herald and PolitiFact’s owner, the Tampa Bay Times. Two others are tied to radio stations, and three are linked to digital news projects.

The leading role that newspapers, TV newsrooms and digital media outlets play in fact-checking is also true at the national level, but that is far less common outside the United States. About 60 percent of the international fact-checking initiatives the Reporters’ Lab tracks are stand-alone projects affiliated with or funded by civic non-profits and philanthropies focuses on government accountability.

In the United States, only two state and local fact-checkers are not connected to a news organization: Michigan Truth Squad, a reporting project that the non-profit Center for Michigan produces for its online journal; and the TruthBeTold.news, whose fact checks are part of a website staffed mainly by students in Howard University’s Department of Media, Journalism and Film in Washington, D.C.

At the national level, only three of 13 fact-checkers are not affiliated with other news companies: Verbatim, a project of the online encyclopedia Ballotpedia; FactCheck.org, which is based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center; and Snopes.com, the independent debunking project launched by a husband-and-wife team 21 years ago.

Local Competition

Voters can now get analysis from multiple local fact-checkers in at least nine states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all of which are holding U.S. Senate races this year.

In North Carolina, a presidential swing state where an incumbent Republican is up for re-election in both the governor and Senate race, the battle will likely be just as intense between the fact-checking teams at Raleigh’s WRAL-TV and its longtime newspaper rival, the News & Observer. But the local competition may be most intense in California, where politicians can expect scrutiny from three different news organizations: the Sacramento Bee, Voice of San Diego and Capital Public Radio in Sacramento.

PolitiFactication

The biggest player in the growth of state and local fact-checking is PolitiFact. After relying on newspapers for its initial partnerships, PolitiFact now has arrangements with local news sites, public radio and the E.W. Scripps TV chain.

Sacramento’s public radio station and the Raleigh-Durham newspaper are two of 18 local media partners that do state-level reporting under the PolitiFact banner. That’s more than half of the 33 U.S. state and local fact-checking initiatives.

In the past year, PolitiFact added 10 state affiliates to its roster, reviving its presence in Ohio and building new sites with partners in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.

PolitiFact’s push at the state level also helped drive the growing role of local TV news in the fact-checking business. Four of the nine new sites in its network are part of the partnership with the the Scripps stations, which the companies announced last October.

New local digital partners include BillyPenn in Pennsylvania and Reboot Illinois.

(Full disclosure: I used to work for the site’s parent company, which previously owned Congressional Quarterly and Governing magazine. Also, PolitiFact was founded by Bill Adair, a Duke media professor who still works for the site as a contributing editor and also oversees my work as co-director of the Reporters’ Lab. But PolitiFact’s effect on the numbers is impossible to ignore.)

Durability

A lot of fact-checkers are in it for the long haul — which is a good thing since politicians keep talking even after the voters have had their say.

Yes, if past election cycles are any indication, some local fact-checking initiatives will inevitably fold after Election Day, as will many of their counterparts in national media (the Reporters’ Lab database also includes a 12 inactive local fact-checkers in 11 states).

But nearly a third of the state and local fact-checkers in our database opened for business before the last presidential election in 2012.

One of the oldest, WISC-TV (News 3) in Madison, Wisconsin, has been at it for 12 years — longer than all but two of the national fact-checkers.

Implications

The growing role of TV newsrooms in the fact-checking movement is significant since political advertising is such a critical revenue source for local broadcasters. That means some owners are investing heavily in fact-checking projects that scrutinize one of their biggest revenue sources.

And since many politicians at the national level get their start running for office in down-ballot races, the growth of fact-checking at the state and local level could have long-term effects on political discourse. Perhaps local fact-checking will produce a generation of careful politicians who are already used to having to reporters examine every word they say long before they decide to seek national office. Or perhaps it will create a breeding ground for the kind of politicians who are most immune to intense media scrutiny.

Either way, fact-checking still seems to be a growing market.

Perhaps that’s why we should note that our tallies above do not count the work of U.S. fact-checkers at all levels, nationally and locally, who occasionally do fact-checking reports without establishing the kind of sustained, systematic effort the Reporters’ Lab database aims to track. But recent political history suggests at least a few more nascent and dormant fact-checkers across the country will spin up their efforts in the weeks ahead. When they do, we’ll be counting them — just as a growing number of voter will be counting on them.

Student researcher Hank Tucker contributed to this report. Here’s more information on how the Reporters’ Lab identifies the fact-checkers included in our global database and here’s a form you can use to tell us about a fact-checker we’ve overlooked.

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How We Identify Fact-Checkers

The Duke Reporters' Lab looks at many attributes to determine which organizations to add to its database of fact-checking projects around the world.

By Bill Adair & Mark Stencel – June 22, 2016 | Print this article

The database of global fact-checking sites is a project of the Reporters’ Lab at Duke University. The database is managed by Mark Stencel, a visiting professor of journalism at Duke who also serves as co-director of the Lab, and Bill Adair, the founder of PolitiFact who serves as the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy and the director of Duke’s journalism program.

The fact-checking database tracks more than 100 non-partisan organizations around the world that regularly publish articles or broadcast segments that assess the accuracy of statements made by public officials, political parties, candidates, journalists, news organizations, associations and other groups.

The Lab considers many attributes in determining which organizations to include, such as whether the site:

  • examines all parties and sides;
  • examines discrete claims and reaches conclusions;
  • tracks political promises;
  • is transparent about sources and methods;
  • discloses funding/affiliations;
  • and whether its primary mission is news and information.

Many fact-checkers in the database are affiliated with news organizations. Others are typically associated with non-governmental groups that conduct non-partisan journalism and focus on issues such as civic engagement, government transparency and public accountability.

The database is regularly updated and includes both active and inactive projects. We also try to update the status of organizations that do periodic fact-checking during key news events, such as an election or a legislative session. (The profiles of each project indicate whether it is inactive or inactive.)

If you have additions, edits or questions, please contact Mark Stencel by email.

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Global fact-checking up 50% in past year

Reporters' Lab tally for 2016 finds nearly 100 sites and organizations keeping tabs on politicians

By Mark Stencel – February 16, 2016 | Print this article

The high volume of political truth-twisting is driving demand for political fact-checkers around the world, with the number of fact-checking sites up 50 percent since last year.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab annual census of international fact-checking currently counts 96 active projects in 37 countries. That’s up from 64 active fact-checkers in the 2015 count. (Map and List)

Active Fact-checkers 2016A bumper crop of new fact-checkers across the Western Hemisphere helped increase the ranks of journalists and government watchdogs who verify the accuracy of public statements and track political promises. The new sites include 14 in the United States, two in Canada as well as seven additional fact-checkers in Latin America.There also were new projects in 10 other countries, from North Africa to Central Europe to East Asia.

With this dramatic growth, politicians in at least nine countries will have their statements scrutinized before their voters go to the polls for national elections this year. (In 2015, fact-checkers were on the beat for national elections in 11 countries.)

Active fact-checkers by continent in our latest tally:
Africa: 5
Asia: 7
Australia: 2
Europe: 27
North America: 47
South America: 8

More than a third of the currently active fact-checkers (33 of 96) launched in 2015 or even in the first weeks of 2016.

The Reporters’ Lab also keeps tabs on inactive fact-checking ventures, which currently number 47. Some of them assure us they are in suspended animation between election cycles — a regular pattern that keeps the fact-checking tally in continuous flux. At least a few inactive fact-checkers in the United States have been “seasonal” projects in past elections. The Reporters’ Lab regularly updates the database, so the tallies reported here are all as of Feb. 15, 2016.

Growing Competition

U.S. fact-checkers dominate the Reporters’ Lab list, with 41 active projects. Of these, three-quarters (30 of 41) are focused on the statements of candidates and government officials working at the state and local level. And 15 of those are among the local media organizations that have joined an expanding network of state affiliates of PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning venture started nine years ago by the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Florida.

(Editor’s Note: PolitiFact founder Bill Adair is a Duke professor who oversees the Reporters’ Lab work. The Lab is part of the the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.)

In the past year, PolitiFact’s newspaper and local broadcast partners have launched new regional sites in six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Nevada) and reactivated a dormant one in a seventh state (Ohio).

In some cases, those new fact-checkers are entering competitive markets. So far this election year, at least seven U.S. states have more than one regional fact-checker and in California there are three.

With the presidential campaign underway, competition also is increasing at the national level, where longstanding fact-checkers such as FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker now regularly square off with at least eight teams of journalists who are systematically scrutinizing the the candidates’ words. And with more and more newsrooms joining in, especially on debate nights, we will be adding to that list before the pixels dry on this blog post.

Competition is on the rise around the world, too. In 10 other countries, voters have more than one active fact-checker to consult.

The tally by country:
U.S.: 41
France: 5
U.K.: 4
Brazil: 3
Canada: 3
South Korea: 3
Spain: 3
Argentina: 2
Australia: 2
Tunisia: 2*
Ukraine: 2

* One organization in Tunisia maintains two sites that track political promises (a third site operated by the same group is inactive).

The growing numbers have even spawned a new global association, the International Fact-Checking Network hosted by the Poynter Institute, a media training center in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Promises, Promises

Some of the growth has come in the form of promise-tracking. Since January 2015, fact-checkers launched six sites in five countries devoted to tracking the status of pledges candidates and party leaders made in political campaigns. In Tunisia, there are two new sites dedicated to promise-tracking — one devoted to the country’s president and the other to its prime minister.

There are another 20 active fact-checkers elsewhere that track promises, either as their primary mission or as part of a broader portfolio of political verification. Added together, more than a quarter of the active fact-checkers (26 of 96, including nine in the United States) do some form of promise-tracking.

The Media Is the Mainstream — Especially in the U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of the active fact-checkers (61 of 96, or 64 percent) are directly affiliated with a new organization. However this breakdown reflects the dominant business structure in the United States, where 90 percent of fact-checkers are part of a news organization. That includes nine of 11 national projects and 28 of 30 state/local fact-checkers

Media Affiliations of 41 Active U.S. Fact-Checkers
Newspaper: 18
TV: 10
TV + Newspaper: 1
Radio: 3
Digital: 3
Student Newspaper: 1
Not Affiliated: 4

The story is different outside the United States, where less than half of the active fact-checking projects (24 of 55, or 44 percent) are affiliated with news organizations.

The other fact-checkers are typically associated with non-governmental, non-profit and activist groups focused on civic engagement, government transparency and accountability. A handful are partisan, especially in conflict zones and in countries where the lines between independent media, activists and opposition parties are often blurry and where those groups are aligned against state-controlled media or other governmental and partisan entities.

Many of the fact-checkers that are not affiliated with news organizations have journalists on their staff or partner with professional news outlets to distribute their content.

All About Ratings

More than three out of four active U.S. fact-checkers (33 of 41, or 81 percent) use rating systems, including scales that range from true to false or rating devices, such as the Washington Post’s “Pinocchios.” That pattern is consistent globally, where 76 of 96, or 79 percent, use ratings.

This report is based on research compiled in part by Reporters’ Lab student researchers Jillian Apel, Julia Donheiser and Shaker Samman. Alexios Mantzarlis of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (and a former managing editor of the Italian fact-checking Pagella Politica) also contributed to this report, as did  Reporters’ Lab director Bill Adair, Knight Professor for the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University (and founder of PolitiFact).

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

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Six new fact-checkers join global journalism movement

Updated Reporters' Lab database now counts 75 projects actively verifying what politicians say and promise.

By Shaker Samman – October 19, 2015 | Print this article

A half-dozen fact-checkers in five countries are adding their work to the growing list of news organizations and websites that actively verify what politicians tell their constituents around the globe.

With these and other updates to our international database, the tally from the Duke Reporters’ Lab now has 75 active fact-checking services. That includes seven other established fact-checkers that weren’t previously listed in the database, several of which have powered back up to cover the 2016 presidential race in the United States. We’ve also updated our tally of inactive sites. (Map and List)

The newcomers include:

Aos Fatos, Brazil: Aos Fatos aims to raise the level of political discourse in Brazil. A profile of the site says the site’s creators got their inspiration from PolitiFact in the United States and Chequeado in Argentina. The website launched in July 2015.

Capdema’s L’Arbitre, Morocco: Based in the capital city of Rabat, Capdema is short for “Cap Democracy Morocco,” a network of young Moroccan activists. The weekly magazine Tel Quel has worked with the group on some initial fact-checking efforts as the publication and youth group collaborate to build out L’Arbitre (“The Referee”).

NPR, United States: Four years ago, NPR listeners responding to an audience survey told the Washington, D.C.-based public radio network that fact-checking topped their list as the most important kind of political reporting. For the 2016 campaign, NPR has concentrated its fact-checking efforts into a recurring feature called “Break It Down.”

Polétika, Spain: Founded in 2015, Polétika was created by a coalition of activist groups. Its site is built around a database of political promises, with fact-checkers monitoring and evaluating claims made by politicians and political parties in the run-up to Spain’s general election this December.

PolitiFact Missouri, United States: The newest member of the PolitiFact family is a partnership between the U.S. fact-checking site operated by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. The site fact-checks claims made by local, state and national officials.

South Asia Check, Nepal: Based in Kathmandu, South Asia Check was founded in 2015 by Panos South Asia, a non-governmental organization focused on regional media development. In addition to fact-checking politicians and other government officials, the site monitors promises related to recovery efforts since the region’s April 2015 earthquake. The fact-checkers concentrate mainly on Nepal, but occasionally review statements made elsewhere in the region.

In addition to these six new fact-checkers, we added several others that were not previously listed in the database, including:

Viralgranskaren, Sweden: Based in Stockholm and founded in 2014, this myth-busting website is a branch of Metro, Sweden’s free daily newspaper. It checks into viral online statements, such as Facebook pricing myths or claims about the Earth’s appearance without water.

Media Fact Checking Service, Macedonia:  This project began in 2013 with a 30-month mission to fact-check Macedonian media reports. The fact-checking portion of the website is presented by the Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society, and is available in English, Macedonian and Albanian.

The other established fact-checkers we’ve added are the AP, the New York Times and Politico, along with two local news offerings: TV reporter Pat Kessler’s regular Reality Checks on CBS Minnesota and Seattle talk radio host Jason Rantz’s #FactCheck segments for KIRO-FM and MYNorthwest.com. (We selfishly wish all fact-checkers provided a handy, one-stop link for their work the way CBS Minnesota does, but the others are just a short search away — for the most part.)

The Reporters’ Lab database also lists 43 inactive fact-checking operations, though that number will likely shift over the coming months, especially as state and local news outlets across the United States reboot their efforts for the upcoming election year.

In this round of updates, Brussels-based FactcheckEU and Minnesota Public Radio’s Polygraph move to inactive status. The inactive count also includes three other U.S. newsrooms and media partnerships that focused on fact-checking during the 2014 U.S. elections: the Quad City Times/WQAD-TV Political Ad Fact Check, in Davenport, Iowa; Truth Test from 5 Eyewitness News in St. Paul, Minn.; and another Truth Test that paired the CBS46 news team in Atlanta with student fact-checkers from Kennesaw State University.

Please share any updates or additions for the Reporters’ Lab database with Mark Stencel or Shaker Samman.

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