Fact-checkers in the Gambia and Bulgaria are among the new additions to the Duke Reporters’ Lab database of fact-checking sites around the world. The total now stands at 356, with more updates to come.
FactCheck Gambia and Factcheck.bg both got their start in 2021. Fact-checkers at the Gambian site checked claims in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections in December, and they have continued to examine President Adama Barrow’s inaugural speech as well as other statements from officials and social media claims.
In Bulgaria, the initiative begun by the nonprofit Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria has checked claims ranging from a purported ban on microwaves to concerns about coronavirus vaccines, and it has received increased interest for its work during the war in Ukraine.
Other additions to the database include a couple of TV news features in the United States: the News10NBC Fact Check from WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York, and the KY3 Fact Finders at KYTV-TV in Springfield, Missouri. Both projects focus on rumors and questions from local television viewers.
This is crunch time for the Reporters’ Lab. We’re busily updating our database for the Lab’s annual fact-checking census. We plan to publish this yearly overview in June, shortly before the International Fact-Checking Network convenes its annual Global Fact summit in Oslo.
About the census: Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the Reporters’ Lab database. The Lab continually collects new information about the fact-checkers it identifies, such as when they launched and how long they last. If you have questions, updates or additions, please contact Lab co-director Mark Stencel (firstname.lastname@example.org) and project manager Erica Ryan (email@example.com).
Fact-checkers are now found in at least 102 countries – more than half the nations in the world.
The latest census by the Duke Reporters’ Lab identified 341 active fact-checking projects, up 51 from last June’s report.
But after years of steady and sometimes rapid growth, there are signs that trend is slowing, even though misleading content and political lies have played a growing role in contentious elections and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our tally revealed a slowdown in the number of new fact-checkers, especially when we looked at the upward trajectory of projects since the Lab began its yearly survey and global fact-checking map seven years ago.
The number of fact-checking projects that launched since the most recent Reporters’ Lab census was more than three times fewer than the number that started in the 12 months before that, based on our adjusted tally.
From July 2019 to June 2020, there were 61 new fact-checkers. In the year since then, there were 19.
Meanwhile, 21 fact-checkers shut down in that same two-year period beginning in June 2019. And 54 additions to the Duke database in that same period were fact-checkers that were already up and running prior to the 2019 census.
Looking at the count by calendar year also underscored the slowdown in the time of COVID.
The Reporters’ Lab counted 36 fact-checking projects that launched in 2020. That was below the annual average of 53 for the preceding six calendar years – and less than half the number of startups that began fact-checking in 2019. The 2020 launches were also the lowest number of new fact-checkers we’ve counted since 2014.
New Fact Checkers by Year
(Note: The adjusted number of 2020 launches may increase slightly over time as the Reporters’ Lab identifies other fact-checkers we have not yet discovered.)
The slowdown comes after a period of rapid expansion that began in 2016. That was the year when the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the presidential race in the United States raised public alarm about the impact of misinformation.
In response, major tech companies such as Facebook and Google elevated fact-checks on their platforms and provided grants, direct funding and other incentives for new and existing fact-checking organizations. (Disclosure: Google and Facebook fund some of the Duke lab’s research on technologies for fact-checkers. )
The 2018-2020 numbers presented below are adjusted from earlier census reports to include fact-checkers that were subsequently added to our database.
Active Fact-Checkers by Year
Note: 2021 YTD includes one fact-checker that closed in 2021.
Growth has been steady on almost every continent except in North America. In the United States, where fact-checking first took off in the early 2010s, there are 61 active fact-checkers now. That’s down slightly from the 2020 election year, when there were 66. But the U.S. is still home to more fact-checking projects than any other country. Of the current U.S. fact-checkers, more than half (35 of 61) focus on state and local politics.
Fact-Checkers by Continent
Among other details we found in this year’s census:
More countries, more staying power: Based on our adjusted count, fact-checkers were active in at least 47 countries in 2014. That more than doubled to 102 now. And most of the fact-checkers that started in 2014 or earlier (71 out of 122) are still active today.
Fact-checking is more multilingual: The active fact-checkers produce reports in nearly 70 languages, from Albanian to Urdu. English is the most common, used on 146 different sites, followed by Spanish (53), French (33), Arabic (14), Portuguese (12), Korean (11) and German (10). Fact-checkers in multilingual countries often present their work in more than one language – either in translation on the same site, or on different sites tailored for specific language communities, including original reporting for those audiences.
More than media: Half of the current fact-checkers (195 of 341) are affiliated with media organizations, including national news publishers and broadcasters, local news sources and digital-only outlets. But there are other models, too. At least 37 are affiliated with non-profit groups, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations and 26 are affiliated academic institutions. Some of the fact-checkers involve cross-organization partnerships and have multiple affiliations. But to be listed in our database, the fact-checking must be organized and produced in a journalistic fashion.
Turnover: In addition to the 341 current fact-checkers, the Reporters’ Lab database and map also include 112 inactive projects. From 2014 to 2020, an average of 15 fact-checking projects a year close down. Limited funding and expiring grants are among the most common reasons fact-checkers shuttered their sites. But there also are short-run, election year projects and partnerships that intentionally close down once the voting is over. Of all the inactive projects, 38 produced fact-checks for a year or less. The average lifespan of an inactive fact-checker is two years and three months. The active fact-checkers have been in business twice as long – an average of more than four and a half years.
The Reporters’ Lab process for selecting fact-checkers for its database is similar to the standards used by the International Fact Checking Network – a project based at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. IFCN currently involves 109 organizations that each agree to a code of principles. The Lab’s database includes all the IFCN signatories, but it also counts any related outlets – such as the state-level news partners of PolitiFact in the United States, the wide network of multilingual fact-checking sites that France’s AFP has built across its global bureau system, and the fact-checking teams Africa Check and PesaCheck have mobilized in countries across Africa.
Reporters’ Lab project manager Erica Ryan and student researchers Amelia Goldstein and Leah Boyd contributed to this year’s report.
About the census: Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the Reporters’ Lab database. The Lab continually collects new information about the fact-checkers it identifies, such as when they launched and how long they last. That’s why the updated numbers for earlier years in this report are higher than the counts the Lab included in earlier reports. If you have questions, updates or additions, please contact Mark Stencel or Joel Luther.
Related Links: Previous fact-checking census reports
The number of active fact-checkers around the world has topped 300 — about 100 more than the Duke Reporters’ Lab counted this time a year ago.
Some of that growth is due to the 2020 election in the United States, where the Lab’s global database and map now finds 58 fact-checking projects. That’s more than twice as many as any other country, and nearly a fifth of the current worldwide total: 304 in 84 countries.
But the U.S. is not driving the worldwide increase.
The last U.S. presidential election sounded an alert about the effects of misinformation, especially on social media. But those concerns weren’t just “made in America.” From the 2016 Brexit vote in the U.K. to this year’s coronavirus pandemic, events around the globe have led to new fact-checking projects that call out rumors, debunk hoaxes and help the public identify falsehoods.
Over the past four years, growth in the U.S. has been sluggish — at least compared with other parts of the world, where Facebook, WhatsApp and Google have provided grants and incentives to enlist fact-checkers help in thwarting misinformation on their platforms. (Disclosure: Facebook and Google also provided support for research at the Reporters’ Lab.)
By looking back at the dates when each fact-checker began publishing, we now see there were about 145 projects in 59 countries that were active at some point in 2016. Of that 145, about a third were based in the United States.
The global total more than doubled from 2016 to now. And the number outside the U.S. increased two and half times — from 97 to 246.
During that same four years, there were relatively big increases elsewhere. Several countries in Asia saw big growth spurts — including Indonesia (which went from 3 fact-checkers to 9), South Korea (3 to 11) and India (3 to 21).
In comparison, the U.S. count in that period is up from 48 to 58.
The comparison is also striking when counting the fact-checkers by continent. The number in South America doubled while the counts for Africa and Asia more than tripled. The North American count was up too — by a third. But the non-U.S. increase in North America was more in line with the pace elsewhere, nearly tripling from 5 to 14.
Several factors seem to account for the slower growth in the U.S. For instance, many of the country’s big news media outlets have already done fact-checking for years, especially during national elections. So there is less room for fact-checking to grow at that level.
USA Today was among the only major media newcomers to the national fact-checking scene in the U.S. since 2016. The others were more niche, including The Daily Caller’s Check Your Fact, the Poynter Institute’s MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network and The Dispatch. In addition, the French news service AFP started a U.S.-based effort as part of its efforts to establish fact-checking teams in many of its dozens of international bureaus. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also launched a fact-checking service called “Based on Science” — one of a number of science- and health-focused fact-checking projects around the world.
Of the 58 U.S. fact-checkers, 36 are focused on state and local politics, especially during regional elections. While some of these local media outlets have been at it for years, including some of PolitiFact’s longstanding state-level news partners, others work on their own, such as WISC-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, which began its News 3 Reality Check segments in 2004. There also are one-off election projects that come to an end as soon as the voting is over.
A wildcard in our Lab’s current U.S. count are efforts to increase local fact-checking across large national news chains. One such newcomer since the 2016 election is Tegna, a locally focused TV company with more than 50 stations across the country. It encourages its stations’ news teams to produce fact-checking reports as part of the company’s “Verify” initiative — though some stations do more regular fact-checking than others. Tegna also has a national fact-checking team that produces segments for use by its local stations. A few other media chains are mounting similar efforts, including some of the local stations owned by Nexstar Inc. and more than 260 newspapers and websites operated by USA Today’s owner, Gannett. Those are promising signs.
There’s still plenty of room for more local fact-checking in the U.S. At least 20 states have one or more regionally focused fact-checking projects already. The Reporters’ Lab is keeping a watchful eye out for new ventures in the other 30.
Note about our methodology: Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the Reporters’ Lab database. The Lab continually collects and new information about the fact-checkers it identifies, such as when they launched and how long they last. That’s why the updated numbers for 2016 used in this article are higher than the counts the Lab reported annual fact-checking census from February 2017. If you have questions or updates, please contact Mark Stencel or Joel Luther.
Related Links: Previous fact-checking census reports
With elections, unrest and a global pandemic generating a seemingly endless supply of falsehoods, the Duke Reporters’ Lab finds at least 290 fact-checking projects are busy debunking those threats in 83 countries.
That count is up from 188 active projects in more than 60 countries a year ago, when the Reporters’ Lab issued the annual census at the Global Fact Summit in South Africa. There has been so much growth that the number of active fact-checkers added in the past year alone more than doubles the total number when the Lab began to keep track in 2014.
There has been plenty of news to keep those fact-checkers busy, including widespread protests in countries such as Chile and the United States. Events like these attract a broad range of new fact-checkers — some from well-established media companies, as well as industrious startups, good-government groups and journalism schools.
Our global database and map shows considerable growth in Asia, particularly India, where the Lab currently counts at least 20 fact-checkers at the moment. We also saw a spike in Chile that started with the nationwide unrest there last fall.
Fact-Checkers by Continent Since June 2019
Africa: 9 to 19 Asia: 35 to 75 Australia: 5 to 4 Europe: 61 to 85 North America: 60 to 69 South America: 18 to 38
But the coronavirus pandemic has been the story that has topped almost every fact-checking page in every country since February.
At least five fact-checkers on the Lab’s map already focused on public health and medical claims. One of the newest is The Healthy Indian Project, which launched last year. But the pandemic has turned almost every fact-checking operation into a team of health reporters. And the International Fact-Checking Network also has coordinated coverage through its #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance.
The pandemic has also turned IFCN’s 2020 Global Fact meeting into a virtual conference this week, instead of the in-person gathering originally planned in Oslo, Norway. And one of the themes participants will be talking about are the institutional factors that have generated more interest and attention for fact-checkers.
To combat increasing online misinformation, major digital platforms in the United States, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and YouTube, have provided incentives to fact-checkers, including direct contributions, competitive grants and help with technological infrastructure to increase the distribution of their work. (Disclosure: Facebook and Google separately help fund research and development projects at the Reporters’ Lab, and the Lab’s co-directors have served as judges for some grants.)
Many of these funding opportunities were specifically for signatories of the IFCN’s Code of Principles, a charter that requires independent accessors to regularly review the editorial and ethical practices of each fact-checker that wants its status verified.
A growing number of fact-checkers are also part of national and regional partnerships. These short-term collaborations can evolve into longer-term partnerships, as we’ve seen with Brazil’s Comprova, Colombia’s RedCheq and Bolivia Verifica. They also can inspire participating organizations to continue fact-checking on their own.
Over time, the Reporters’ Lab has tried to monitor these contributors and note when they have developed into fact-checkers that should be listed in their own right. That’s why our database shows considerable growth in South Korea — home to the long-standing SNU FactCheck partnership based at Seoul National University’s Institute of Communications Research.
As has been the case with each year’s census, some of the growth also comes from established fact-checkers that came to the attention of the Reporters’ Lab after last June’s census was published — offset by at least nine projects that closed down in the months that followed.
But the overall trend was still strong. Overall, 68 of the projects in the database launched since the start of 2019. And more than half of them (40 of the 68) opened for business after the 2019 census, including 11 so far in the first half of 2020. And most of them appear to have staying power. Of those 68, only four are no longer operating. And three of those were election-related collaborations that launched as intentionally short-term projects.
We also have tried to be more thorough about discerning among specific projects and outlets that are produced or distributed by different teams within the same or related organizations. The variety of strong fact-checking programs and web pages produced by variously affiliated French public broadcasters is a good example. (Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the Reporters’ Lab database.)
The increasing tally of fact-checkers, which continues a trend that started in 2014, is remarkable. While this is a challenging time for journalism in just about every country, public alarm about the effects of misinformation is driving demand for credible reporting and research — the work a growing list of fact-checkers are busy doing around the world.
Fact-checking has expanded to 78 countries, where the Duke Reporters’ Lab counts at least 237 organizations that actively verify the statements of public figures, track political promises and combat misinformation.
So far, that’s a 26% increase in the 10 months since the Reporters’ Lab published its 2019 fact-checking census. That was on eve of last summer’s annual Global Fact summit in South Africa, when our international database and map included 188 active fact-checkers in more than 60 countries.
We know that’s an undercount because we’re still counting. But here’s where we stand by continent:
Africa: 17 Asia: 53 Australia: 4 Europe: 68 North America: 69 South America: 26
About 20 fact-checkers listed in the database launched since last summer’s census. One of the newest launched just last week: FACTA, a spinoff of longtime Italian fact-checker Pagella Politica that will focus broadly on online hoaxes and disinformation.
The Lab’s next annual census will be published this summer, when the International Fact Checking Network hosts an online version of Global Fact. On Wednesday, the network postponed the in-person summit in Norway, scheduled for June, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several factors are driving the growth of fact-checking.
One is the increasing spread of misinformation on large digital media platforms, some of which are turning to fact-checkers for help — directly and indirectly. That includes a Facebook partnership that enlists participating “third-party” fact-checkers to help respond to some categories of misleading information flagged by its users. Another example is ClaimReview, an open-source tagging system the Reporters’ Lab helped develop that makes it easier for Google and other platforms to spotlight relevant fact-checks and contradict falsehoods. The Reporters’ Lab is developing a related new tagging-system, MediaReview, that will help flag manufactured and misleading use of images, including video and photos. (Disclosure: Facebook and Google are among the funders of the Lab, which develops and deploys technology to help fact-checkers. The Lab collaborated with Schema.org and Google to establish the ClaimReview framework and encourage its adoption.)
Another factor in the growth of fact-checking is the increasing role of collaboration. That includes fact-checking partnerships that involve competing news outlets and media groups that have banded together to share fact-checks or jointly cover political claims, especially during elections. It also includes growing collaboration within large media companies. Examples of those internal partnerships range from Agence France-Presse, the French news service that has established regional fact-checking sites with dedicated reporters in dozens of its bureaus around the world, to U.S.-based TEGNA, whose local TV stations produce and share “Verify” fact-checking segments across more than four dozen outlets.
Sharing content and processes is a positive thing — though it means it’s more difficult for our Lab to keep count. These multi-outlet fact-checking collaborations make it complicated for us to determine who exactly produces what, or to keep track of the individual outlets where readers, viewers and listeners can find this work. We’ll be clarifying our selection process to address that.
We’ll have more to say about the trends and trajectory of fact-checking in our annual census when the Global Fact summit convenes online. Working with a student researcher, Reporters’ Lab director Bill Adair first began tallying fact-checking projects for the first Global Fact summit in 2014. That gathering of about 50 people in London ultimately led a year later to the formation of the International Fact Checking Network, which is based at the Poynter Institute, a media studies and training center in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The IFCN summit itself has become a measure of fact-checkng’s growth. Before IFCN decided to turn this year’s in-person conference into an online event, more than 400 people had confirmed their participation. That would have been about eight times larger than the original London meeting in 2014.
IFCN director Baybars Örsek told fact-checkers Wednesday that the virtual summit will be scheduled in the coming weeks. Watch for our annual fact-checking census then.
With the U.S. election now less than a year away, at least four-dozen American fact-checking projects plan to keep tabs on claims by candidates and their supporters – and a majority of those fact-checkers won’t be focused on the presidential campaign.
The News & Observer has not abandoned fact-checking. It launched a new statewide initiative of its own — this time without PolitiFact’s trademarked Truth-O-Meter or a similar rating system for the statements it checks. “We’ll provide a highly informed assessment about the relative truth of the claims, rather than a static rating or ranking,” The N&O’s editors said in an article announcing its new project.
Among the 20 U.S. state and local fact-checkers that are not PolitiFact partners, at least 13 use some kind of rating system.
Of all the state and local fact-checkers, 11 are affiliated with TV stations — like WRAL, which had its own fact-checking service before it joined forces with PolitiFact this month. Another 11 are affiliated with newspapers or magazines. Five are local digital media startups and two are public radio stations. There are also a handful of projects based in academic journalism programs.
One example of a local digital startup is Mississippi Today, a non-profit state news service that launched a fact-checking page for last year’s election. It is among the projects we have added to our database over the past month.
We should note that some of these fact-checkers hibernate between election cycles. These seasonal fact-checkers that have long track records over multiple election cycles remain active in our database. Some have done this kind of reporting for years. For instance, WISC-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, has been fact-checking since 2004 — three years before PolitiFact, The Washington Post and AP got into the business.
One of the hardest fact-checking efforts for us to quantify is run by corporate media giant TEGNA Inc. which operates nearly 50 stations across the country. Its “Verify” segments began as a pilot project at WFAA-TV in the Dallas area in 2016. Now each station produces its own versions for its local TV and online audience. The topics are usually suggested by viewers, with local reporters often fact-checking political statements or debunking local hoaxes and rumors.
A reporter at WCNC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina, also produces national segments that are distributed for use by any of the company’s other stations. We’ve added TEGNA’s “Verify” to our database as a single entry, but we may also add individual stations as we determine which ones do the kind of fact-checking we are trying to count. (Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include.)
A Global Movement
As for the global picture, the Reporters’ Lab is now up to 226 active fact-checking projects around the world — up from 210 in October, when our count went over 200 for the first time. That is more than five times the number we first counted in 2014. It’s also more than double a retroactive count for that same year –- a number that was based on the actual start dates of all the fact-checking projects we’ve added to the database over the past five years (see footnote to our most recent annual census for details).
Other recent additions to the database involved several established fact-checkers, including PesaCheck, which launched in Kenya in 2016. Since then it’s added bureaus in Tanzania in 2017 and Uganda in 2018 — both of which are now in our database. We added Da Begad, a volunteer effort based in Egypt that has focused on social media hoaxes and misinformation since 2013. And there’s a relative newcomer too: Re:Check, a Latvian project that’s affiliated with a non-profit investigative center called Re:Baltica. It launched over the summer.
Peru’s OjoBiónico is back on our active list. It resumed fact-checking last year after a two-year hiatus. OjoBiónico is a section of OjoPúblico, a digital news service that focuses on an investigative reporting service.
We already have other fact-checkers we plan to add to our database over the coming weeks. If there’s a fact-checker you know about that we need to update or add to our map, please contact Joel Luther at the Reporters’ Lab.
The Reporters’ Lab added 21 fact-checkers to our database of reporting projects that regularly debunk political misinformation and viral hoaxes, pushing our global count over 200.
The database now lists 210 active fact-checkers in 68 countries. That nearly quintupled the number the Reporters’ Lab first counted in 2014. It also more than doubled a retroactive count for that same year – a number that was based on the actual start dates of all the fact-checking projects we’ve added to the database over the past five years (see footnote to our most recent annual census).
The database now lists several other recent additions that also launched in 2019, mainly to focus on upcoming elections. Bolivia Verifica launched in June, four months before this past weekend’s vote, which may be headed for a December runoff. Reverso in Argentina also launched in June, followed by Verificado Uruguay in July. The general elections in those two countries are this coming Sunday.
Other 2019 launches include Namibia FactCheck, GhanaFact and, in the United States, local TV station KCRG-TV’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. KCRG is a bit of a special case, since it’s hardly a newbie. The TV station was previously owned by a local newspaper, The Cedar Rapids Gazette. Even after the sale, the two newsrooms collaborated on fact-checking for several years through last year’s U.S. midterm elections. But now they have gone separate ways. Starting in March, the investigative reporting team at KCRG began doing its own fact-checking segments.
At least six other fact-checkers that launched in 2019 were already in our database before this month’s update, several of which were intentionally short-term projects that focused on specific elections. We’re checking on the status of those now. At least one, Global Edmonton’s Alberta Election Fact Check, is already on our inactive list. For that reason, we expect our count might not grow much more before the end of 2019 and might even drop slightly.
In addition to the projects that began in 2019, we also added three established fact-checkers to our database that were already in operation before this year: Local TV station KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Texas, has been on the fact-checking beat since 2017. The journalists who do fact-checking for Syria-focused Verify-Sy have worked from locations in Turkey, Europe and within that war-torn country since 2016. And Belgium’s Knack magazine has provided a fact-checking feature to its readers since 2012.
We weren’t sure we would cross the 200 fact-checkers milestone in October, since we also moved seven dormant projects to our separate count of inactive fact-checkers this month. Our count in September was 195 before we made this month’s updates.
If there’s a fact-checker you know about that we need to update or add to our database, please contact Joel Luther at the Reporters’ Lab. (Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include.)
The Duke Reporters’ Lab is adding seven fact-checkers from three continents to our global database. That puts our ongoing count of reporting projects that regularly debunk political misinformation and viral hoaxes close to 200.
With this month’s additions, the Lab’s database now counts 195 projects in 62 countries, including every project the International Fact-Checking Network has verified as signatories of its code of principles.
One new addition uses a name that’s inspired many others in the fact-checking community: the polygraph machine, also known as the lie detector. DELFI’s Melo Detektorius (“Lie Detector”) launched last November. It’s the fact-checker for the Lithuanian outlet of a commercial media company that operates digital news channels in the Baltic states and across Eastern Europe.
Many others have used variations of the name before, including the Columbian news site La Silla Vacía’s Detector de Mentiras and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s weekly political fact-checking TV program Detektor. There are versions of polygraph too, such as Polígrafo in Portugal and El Poligrafo, a fact-checker for the print edition of the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. At least three inactive entries in our database used similar names.
The fact-checkers at Spondeo Media in Mexico City avoided the wording, but apparently liked the idea. Instead, they deploy a cartoon polygraph machine with emoji-like facial expressions to rate the accuracy of statements.
Two news sites associated with the TV Today Network in New Delhi and its corporate parent India Today are also recent additions to our database. In addition to the work that appears on India Today Fact Check, the company’s fact-checkers produce reports for the Hindi-language news channel Aaj Tak and the Bangla-language news and opinion portal DailyO. When claims circulate in multiple languages, fact-checks are translated and published across platforms.
“Broadly, the guiding principle for deciding the language of our fact- check story is the language in which the claim was made,” explained Balkrishna, who leads the Fact Check Team at the India Today Group. “If the claim is Hindi, we would write the fact check story in Hindi first. If the same claim appears in more than one language, we translate the stories and publish it on the respective websites.”
While it’s relatively common for fact-checkers in some countries to present their work in multiple languages on one site, it’s less common for one media company to produce fact-checks for multiple outlets in multiple languages.
As we approach a Canadian national election slated for Oct. 21, we are adding two fact-checkers from that part of the world. One is Décrypteurs from CBC/Radio-Canada in Montréal. It launched in May to focus on digital misinformation, particularly significant claims and posts that are flagged by its audience. But the format is not entirely new to the network, where reporter Jeff Yates had produced occasional fact-checks under the label “inspecteur viral.”
The Walrus magazine in Toronto is also focusing on digital misinformation on its fact-checking site, which launched in October 2018.
We have added two other well-established fact-checkers that have a similar focus. The first is the Thai News Agency’s Sure and Share Center in Bangkok. The Thai News Agency is the journalism arm of Mass Communication Organization of Thailand, a publicly traded state enterprise that was founded in 1952 and privatized in 2004.
The other is Fatabyyano, an independent fact-checker based in Amman, Jordan. It covers a wide range of misinformation and hoaxes throughout the Arab world, including nearly two dozen countries in the Middle East and North and East Africa. Applied Science Private University and the Zedni Education Network are among its supporters.
We learned that Fatabyyano’s name is a reference to a holy command from the Quran meaning “to investigate” from an article by former Reporter’s Lab student researcher Daniela Flamini. She wrote about that site and other fact-checking projects in the Arab world for the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.
Several of the sites Flamini mentioned are among a list of others we plan to add to our database when we post another of these updates in October.
The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.
Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is alsomore than four-times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.
Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.
The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work – either together or on their own.
Over the past 12 months, five separate multimedia partnerships enlisted more than 60 different fact-checking organizations and other news companies to help debunk claims and verify information for voters in Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Nigeria and Philippines. And the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network assembled a separate team of 19 media outlets from 13 countries to consolidate and share their reporting during the run-up to last month’s elections for the European Parliament. Our database includes each of these partnerships, along with several others – but not each of the individual partners. And because they were intentionally short-run projects, three of these big partnerships appear among the 74 inactive projects we also document in our database.
Politics isn’t the only driver for fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation – often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads.
We also continue to see new topic-specific fact-checkers such as Metafact in Australia and Health Feedback in France — both of which launched in 2018 to focus on claims about health and medicine for a worldwide audience.
(Here’s how we decide which fact-checkers to include in the Reporters’ Lab database.)
Fact-Checkers by Continent Since Feb. 2018
Africa:4 to 9 Asia: 22 to 35 Australia: 3 to 5 Europe: 52 to 61 North America: 53 to 60 South America: 15 to 18
TRACKING THE GROWTH
As we’ve noted, elections are not the only draw for aspiring fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating their efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation – often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads. And those platforms are also providing incentives.
In one such effort, the Reporters’ Lab worked with Google and Schema.org to develop ClaimReview, an open-source tagging system for fact-checks. Google, Microsoft’s BING, Facebook and YouTube use this system to help identify and showcase fact-checkers’ work in their news feeds and search results – a process that generates traffic and attention for the fact-checkers. It also provides data that is powering experiments in live, real time fact-checks that can be delivered to users automatically. (Disclosure: Google and Facebook are among the funders of the Reporters’ Lab.)
Another driver: Facebook. It has recruited independent fact-checking partners around the world to help identify misinformation on its platforms. The social network began that effort in late 2016 with help from the Poynter’s Institute’s IFCN. (Poynter is a journalism training and research center in St. Petersburg, Florida, that also is home to the U.S. fact-checking site PolitiFact.)
Meanwhile, YouTube gave fact-checking a boost in India when it started putting fact-checks at the top of YouTube search results, which helped contribute to a surge of new outlets in that country. Now India has 11 entries in our database, six of which launched since our February 2018 census. And it’s likely there are others to add in the next few weeks.
KINDS OF FACT-CHECKERS
A bit more than half of fact-checkers are part of a media company (106 of 188, or 56%). That percentage has been dropping over the past few years, mostly because of the changing business landscape for media companies in the United States. In our 2018 census, 87% of the U.S. fact-checkers were connected to a media company (41 out of 47). Now it’s 65% (39 out of 60). In other words, as the number of fact-checker in the U.S. has grown, fewer of them have ties to those companies.
Among fact-checkers in the rest of the world, the media mix remains about half and half (67 out of 128, or 52% — very close to the 54% we saw in 2018).
The fact-checkers that are not part of a larger media organization include independent, standalone organizations, both for-profit and non-profit (the definitions of these legal and economic entities vary greatly from country to country). Some of these fact-checkers are subsidiary projects of bigger organizations that focus on civil society and political accountability. Others are affiliated with think tanks and academic institutions.
Among the recent additions is the journalism department at the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, which was the coordinator of Tsek.ph, a political fact-checking partnership mentioned earlier that also involves two other academic partners.
About 70% of the fact-checkers (131 of 188) have well-defined rating systems for categorizing the claims they investigate — similar to what we’ve seen in past years.
As usual, we found many of the rating systems to be entertaining. One of our new favorites comes from Spondeo Media in Mexico, which launched in December. It supplements a basic, four-point, true-to-false scale with a mascot – NETO, a cartoon lie-detector who smiles and jumps for joy with true claims but gets steamed with false ones. Another, India Today Fact Check, rated claims using a scale of one-to-three animated crows, along with a slogan in Hindi: “When you lie, the crow bites” (also the title of a popular movie: “Jhooth bole kauva kaate”).
We decided to time this year’s fact-checking census to correspond with the sixth annual GlobalFact Summit, which begins next week in Cape Town, South Africa. About 250 attendees from nearly nearly 60 countries are expected at this year’s gathering — which is yet another measure of fact-checking’s continued growth: That’s five times the number from the first GlobalFact in London in 2014.
Joel Luther, Share the Facts Research and Outreach Coordinator at the Duke Reporters’ Lab, and former student researcher Daniela Flamini (now an intern at the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network) contributed to this report.
FOOTNOTE: ANOTHER WAY TO COUNT FACT-CHECKERS?
A challenge we have each time the Duke Reporters’ Lab conducts our annual fact-checking censuses is that our final tally depends so much on when we happen to discover these outlets. Our counting also depends on when fact-checkers come and go — especially short-term, election-focused projects that last several months. If a fact-checker was hard at work most of the year covering a campaign, but then closed up shop before we did our census, they’ll still be counted — but in our list of inactive projects.
That inactive list is an interesting trove of good ideas for other fact-checkers to mine. It also provides an entirely different way for us to tally fact-checkers: by counting all the projects that were active at some point during the year — not just the ones that make it to winter.
This approach might better showcase the year in fact-checking. And it also would show that fact-checking was in fact growing faster than we even thought it was.
Here’s chart that compares the number of fact-checkers that we know were active in certain years — even the ones that ultimately closed down — with the subsequent census number for that year….
There are reasons why the Reporters’ Lab would still need to keep counting fact-checkers the way we have since 2014. For one, we need current lists and counts of serious fact-checking projects for all kinds of reasons, including academic research and the experiments that we and others want to try out with real-world fact-checkers.
And yet it’s still great to see how fast fact-checking is growing — even more than we sometimes thought.
(The small print for anyone who’s fact-checking me: The adjusted numbers shown here combine any fact-checker in our database that was active at some point during that given year. Most of our census reports were meant to count the previous year’s activity. For example our February 2018 census appears in this chart as our count of 2017 fact-checkers, even if some of those 2017 fact-checkers were only counted in last year’s census as inactive by the time the census was published. The number shown for 2018 is the 16-month 2018-19 number we are releasing in this report. You also might note that some other numbers here are slightly off from data we’ve previously shared. The main reason is that this proposed form of counting depends on having the dates that each project began and ended. In a handful of cases, we do not.)
It’s now much easier for fact-checkers to use ClaimReview, a tagging tool that logs fact-checks published around the world into one database. The tool helps search engines — and readers — find non-partisan fact-checks published globally. It also organizes fact-check content into structured data that automated fact-checking will require.
Currently, only half of the roughly 160 fact-checking organizations that the Duke Reporters’ Lab tracks globally use ClaimReview. In response, Google and the Duke Reporters’ Lab have developed an easier method of labelling the articles to help both recruit more users and expand a vital fact-check data set.
ClaimReview was created in 2015 after a conversation between staff at Google and Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker. Kessler wanted Google to highlight fact-checks in its search results. Bill Adair, director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab, was soon brought in to help.
Dan Brickley from Schema.org, Justin Kosslyn from Google and Adair developed a tagging systembased on the schemas maintained by Schema.org, an organization that develops structured ways of organizing information. They created a universal system for fact-checkers to label their articles to include the claim checked, who said it and a ruling on its accuracy. “It’s the infrastructure that provides the atomic unit of fact-checking to search engines,” Adair said.
Initially, ClaimReview produced a piece of code that fact-checkers copy and pasted into their online content management system. Google and other search engines look for the code when crawling content. Next, Chris Guess of Adair’s team developed a ClaimReview widget called Share the Facts, a content box summarizing fact-checks that PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and the Washington Post can publish online and share on social media.
The latest version of ClaimReview no longer requires users to copy and paste the code, which can behave inconsistently on different content management systems. Instead, fact-checkers only have to fill out Google form fields similar to what they used previously to produce the code.
While the concept of ClaimReview is simple, it opens to the door to more innovation in fact-checking. It organizes data in ways that can be reused. By “structuring journalism, we can present content in more valuable ways to people,” said Adair.
By labeling fact-checks, the creators effectively created a searchable database of fact-checks, numbering about 24,000 today. The main products under development at the Reporters’ Lab, from FactStream to Squash, rely on fact-check databases. Automated fact-checking especially requires a robust database to quickly match untrue claims to previously published fact-checks.
The database ClaimReview builds offers even more possibilities. Adair hopes to tweak the fields fact-checkers fill in to provide better summaries of the fact-checks and provide more information to readers. In addition, Adair envisions ClaimReview being used to tag types of misinformation, as well as authors and publishers of false content. It could also tag websites that have a history of publishing false or misleading articles.
The tagging already is already benefiting some fact-check publishers. “ClaimReview helps to highlight and surface our fact-checks on Google, more than the best SEO skills or organic search would be able to achieve,” said Laura Kapelari, a journalist with Africa Check. ClaimReview has increased traffic on Africa Check’s website and helped the smaller Africa Check compete with larger media houses, she said. It also helps fact-checkers know which facts have already been investigated, which reduces redundant checks.
Joel Luther, the ClaimReview project manager in the Reporters’ Lab, expects this new ClaimReview format will save fact-checkers time and decrease errors when labeling fact-checks. However, there is still room to grow. Kapelari wishes there was a way for the tool to automatically grab key fields such as names in order to save time.
The Reporters’ Lab has a plan to promote ClaimReview globally. Adair is already busy on that front. Early this month, a group of international fact-checkers and technologists met in Durham for Tech & Check 2019, an annual conference where people on this quest share progress on automated fact-checking projects intended to fight misinformation. Adair, an organizer of Tech & Check, emphasized new developments with ClaimReview, as well as its promise for automating fact-checking.
Not much would be possible without this tool, he stressed. “It’s the secret sauce.”