“International Fact-Checking Network”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fact-checking will keep growing.

 

 

 

 

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Repoeters' Lab map

Fact-checking booms as numbers grow by 20 percent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2017 fact-checking map

International fact-checking gains ground, Duke census finds

Number of projects up 19% in a year; U.S. count holds steady after tumultuous election season

By Mark Stencel – February 28, 2017 | Print this article

Falsehoods and “fake news” are keeping journalists and researchers busy in 47 countries, where 114 dedicated fact-checking teams are now calling out public figures for inaccuracies.

The number of active fact-checking projects increased more than two and half times since the Duke Reporters’ Lab began its annual census three years ago. The current count is up 19 percent from 2016, when the number of active fact-checkers was 96.

Nineteen of the fact-checkers started in 2016. That includes 10 in the United States, seven of which focused on state and local politics. The number of startups increases to 23 if we include four additional U.S. fact-checkers that launched in 2016 to cover the U.S. elections but have since shut down. Those four are now among the 55 inactive fact-checking projects that are also tracked by the Reporters’ Lab.

Also among those inactive projects is the ABC News Fact Check in Australia, which closed down in June after government budget cuts. But the ABC Fact Check is expected to return as soon as next month as part of a new partnership between the public broadcaster and RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication — a phoenix-like cycle that we’ve seen before among the world’s fact-checkers.

The Lab regularly updates the database of fact-checkers, which peaked last year at 121 before the end of the raucous U.S. election season (see the current MAP AND LIST). By the time American voters went to the polls, the number of U.S. fact-checkers had temporarily surged to 53 — up from 41 during the presidential primary campaign a year ago — with most focused on politics at the state and local level.

But with the shuttering of eight of PolitiFact’s state affiliates since the election and other updates to our list, the U.S. year-over-year count grew by just two to 43 — or about 38 percent percent of the global total. [UPDATE, March 25: PolitiFact Georgia resumed operations after brief hiatus in March 2017. PolitiFact’s reporting about Georgia politics is now syndicated to state news outlets, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The newspaper previously produced its own fact checks, using PolitiFact’s platform and methodology from 2010 to 2016. The numbers of fact-checkers referred to throughout this article are still based on our February count.]

The post-election dip in the U.S. was not surprising. Media fact-checkers that come to life in campaign years often go offline or close down completely after the votes are tallied — a trend PolitiFact founder Bill Adair lamented in an Election Day commentary for the New York Times.

“[P]oliticians don’t stop lying on Election Day,” wrote Adair, who now teaches journalism at Duke and oversees the university’s Reporters’ Lab.

Meanwhile, the fact-checking movement has continued to grow internationally.

Including the United States, 11 countries have more than one fact checker:
United States: 43
France: 6
United Kingdom: 6
Spain: 4
Ukraine: 4
South Korea: 3
Canada: 3
Brazil: 3
Mexico: 2
Argentina: 2
Colombia: 2

Growth was especially strong in Europe, where our count increased 44 percent — from 27 in 2016 to 39 now. While some of that increase came from adding established fact-checkers we previously hadn’t identified, seven of the European fact-checkers were among the 2016 startups.

Among the operations that opened for business in 2016 were fact-checkers in Ireland Kosovo, Lithuania, Spain and the United Kingdom, plus two in Ukraine (some of these launched early enough to in the year to be counted in last February’s report). New fact-checkers in Columbia and Kenya also launched in 2016. And with upcoming elections in France, Germany and elsewhere, we expect global growth in fact-checking will continue in 2017.

FACT CHECKERS BY CONTINENT
Africa: 5
Asia: 9
Australia: 1
Europe: 39
North America: 50
South America: 10

In the United States, fact-checkers are often part of an established news organization. But elsewhere in the world, they are less likely to have a media affiliation.

While more than 80 percent of the U.S. fact-checkers (36 of 43) are part of a media company, fewer than half in the rest of the world (33 of 71) have those kinds of direct ties. The others are mainly affiliated with universities and other non-governmental organizations that focus on issues such as civic engagement, government transparency and public accountability. Still, those independent fact-checkers frequently establish business or distribution relationships with news organizations to help pay for their work and expand their audiences.

The Reporters’ Lab is a project of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke University’s Sanford School for Public Policy. 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. The Lab also gets guidance from the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which established a Code of Principles in 2016.

Student researcher Hank Tucker 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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In Buenos Aires, a discussion about the impact of fact-checking

Researchers talked about the impact of graphic ratings and the big challenge: persuading partisans.

By Hank Tucker – June 18, 2016 | Print this article

Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican nomination for president of the United States, seemingly immune to fact-checkers that debunk his false statements, has prompted a simple question about American politics: Do facts matter?

Four researchers attempted to answer this question at the Global Fact-Checking Summit in Buenos Aires during a panel discussion moderated by Alexios Mantzarlis, the director of the International Fact-Checking Network. The presenters showed evidence that fact-checking has an impact on both politicians and some voters, but they agreed that many people use fact-checks to support preexisting ideologies.

Jason Reifler, a professor of politics at the University of Exeter who specializes in fact-checking, sent letters to an experimental group of state legislators in states with PolitiFact franchises warning about fact-checking and cautioning them to make accurate claims. Reifler and Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan found that politicians who received letters were less likely to make false claims than politicians who did not receive a letter.

This study indicates that fact-checking matters to politicians, but it is still unclear how much it matters to voters. Reifler noted that motivated reasoning and selective exposure often cloud voters’ opinions of fact-checking.

“People will go to media and media sources that are more congenial to what they want to hear,” Reifler said. “When people encounter information, if they have a directional goal, they want to try and be consistent with it. They want to maintain their ideological priors and they want to maintain their political preferences.”

In a separate study focused on voters, Reifler showed that people pay attention to fact-checks but are more likely to read the ones that refute the politicians they oppose. He presented participants with the option to

The panel include Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, moderator Alexios Mantzarlis, Eugenia Mitchelstein of Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina and Leticia Bode of Georgetown University.
The panel include Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, moderator Alexios Mantzarlis, Eugenia Mitchelstein of Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina and Leticia Bode of Georgetown University.

read either two fact-checks by Pagella Politica, one against a politician from either the left or right and an unrelated article, or two articles unrelated to politics and fact-checking.

Forty-three percent of respondents chose to read both fact-checks and 83 percent read at least one, but of the 40 percent that only read one along with an unrelated article, the majority chose the fact-check that criticized a politician they opposed..

Leticia Bode, a Georgetown University professor specializing in misinformation and social media, and Eugenia Mitchelstein, a researcher at the Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina, agreed that confirmation bias plays a major role in how consumers approach falsehoods, but both presenters noted that fact-checking sometimes changes their minds.

Bode’s research tested responses to inaccurate information on Facebook and whether links to related stories and comments are effective in correcting users who believe misinformation. Among people that are less prone to believe conspiracies, seeing a headline from at least one reputable fact-checking source usually made them change their minds and believe the truth. But comments by other users contesting false claims without evidence did not have an effect.

“If you correct without sources, people don’t care at all,” Bode said. “If you are talking to your friends on Facebook who are posting, make sure you include a source.”

That corrective source for Argentinians is often Chequeado, the highly regarded fact-checking site, as Mitchelstein demonstrated with a survey of people who casually followed politics. Many respondents said people cherry-pick the data they want to believe from Chequeado, but there was still a consensus that the site plays an important role in Argentine politics.

“In Argentina, Chequeado is synonymous with fact-checking,” Mitchelstein said. “They became like the arbiter of truth, and I think it’s great thing.”

Although fact-checkers receive more attention during campaigns, many still struggle to drive traffic to their sites. Chris Blow from Meedan, which builds digital tools for journalism, provided recommendations for how fact-checkers can make articles more visually appealing and persuasive.

Blow lauded Animal Politico for its engaging graphics ratings statements via dog illustrations, inspired by the site’s name, “El Sabueso,” or “The Hound.” He also praised Africa Check and Les Observateurs, a French site, for showing clear ratings on their Twitter posts to make sure  readers knew the conclusions. Blow also critiqued posts from other publications that he said may bore or confuse readers due to too much text or a misleading placement of the rating.

 

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At GlobalFact 3, a call for transparency and impartial fact-checking

Now that fact-checking has matured, "we need to make sure that our work is rock solid."

By Bill Adair – June 9, 2016 | Print this article

My opening remarks at GlobalFact 3, the third annual meeting of the world’s fact-checkers, oragnized by Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network and the Reporters’ Lab, held June 9-10, 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It’s amazing how our group has grown. Our latest tally in the Duke Reporters’ Lab is 105 active sites around the world, which is up more than 60 percent from last year.

We’ve also seen marvelous growth in international collaborations. Alexios has organized some impressive check-a-thons for economic summits and other events, uniting more than a dozen fact-checkers for a single event. And a few months ago, Africa Check joined PolitiFact for an unprecedented partnership to check claims about global health and development.

Our fact-checks are increasingly having an impact. Politicians cite them in speeches and campaign commercials. One organization recently emailed its senior staff reminding them about the new Africa Check-PolitiFact project, cautioning them to be accurate in their statements. In Ireland, attention generated by a Journal.ie fact-check halted a viral social media campaign to “name and shame” Irish parliamentarians for their purportedly low attendance at a debate on mental health services.

More than 100 people attended the conference, which was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
More than 100 people attended the conference, which was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Here in Argentina, Gabriella Michetti, vice-presidential candidate on the Macri ticket, was asked about a “Falso” she got from Chequeado. She replied, ”I saw that on Chequeado. Which is why we corrected ourselves and never repeated it.”

Our audiences are growing. In the United States, the three big fact-checkers are all reporting record-breaking traffic. A debate article by FactCheck.org got more than 1.8 million page views on the site and partners such as MSN.com.

In the United States, we have a presidential candidate named Donald Trump — perhaps you have heard of him — who has shown why fact-checking is so important. Some pundits have said his disregard for facts shows we live in a “post-fact” era when facts no longer matter. But I think it shows a more positive story: we know about Donald Trump’s falsehoods because of the tremendous work of a growing army of fact-checkers.

We’ve reached a point where fact-checking is no longer a novelty. It’s no longer something that we have to explain to the people we’re checking. It’s now a mature form of journalism — and an expected part of how news organizations cover political campaigns and government.

But now that fact-checking has matured, it’s time to make sure we push our journalism to the next level. To maintain our status as trusted sources, we need to make sure that our work is rock solid. Our fact-checks must be thoroughly researched using the most independent sources available. Our writing needs to be clear and concise.

We need to show that we do not play favorites. We need to be impartial and apply the same standards to everyone we check. And we need to check everyone.  As Rem Rieder wrote in USA Today in a column this week that mentioned our meeting, for fact-checking to work, “it has to be an equal opportunity endeavor, strictly nonpartisan.”

In the past year,  the students and colleagues who maintain our fact-checking database have come across a couple of sites that primarily check one party in their political system. That’s not fact-checking; that’s advocacy. To be a reputable fact-checker, you must check all the players in your political systems.

Fact-checkers also need to be transparent in our work. We need to explain how we choose statements to check and how our ratings work. We need to reveal our sources and be clear how we reached our conclusions.

We also need to be transparent about the funding and structure of our organizations. We need to explain who gives us money and reassure our readers and consumers that we are not political activists.

We also need to continue to expand our audiences. I continue to be surprised by the relatively limited use of fact-checking on television. We should seek more partnerships with TV networks and show them that the fact-checking makes great TV. You will love hearing from our keynote speaker, Natalia Hernández Rojo, who does some of the best TV fact-checks in the world for La Sexta’s El Objetivo in Spain. We can all learn a lot from Natalia.

Finally, I want to conclude with a suggestion. In catching up with many of you in the past couple of days I have realized that I have not done enough to follow your work. So I’m going to set a new goal to read one fact-check every day. I’ll randomly choose a site from our Reporters’ Lab database and read the most recent one.

I encourage you to do the same thing — a fact-check a day. It’s a new way that we can continue to build our community. By reading each other’s work, we can learn about each other and improve our work.

It’s a wonderful time to be in our movement. Fact-checking keeps growing and it has become a powerful force that informs democracies around the world. We need to maintain that momentum and make sure that our work is the best it can be.

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At Tech & Check, some new ideas to automate fact-checking

Journalists and technologists met at Duke to dream up new ways that technology can help fact-checkers.

By Bill Adair – April 4, 2016 | Print this article

Last week, journalists and technologists gathered at Duke to dream up new ways that automation could help fact-checking.

The first Tech & Check conference, sponsored by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network, brought together about 50 journalists, students and computer scientists. The goal was to showcase existing projects and inspire new ones.

Tech and Check photo
At Tech & Check, groups of students, journalists and technologists dreamed up new ideas to automate fact-checking.

The participants included representatives of Google, IBM, NBC News, PolitiFact, Full Fact, FactCheck.org and the WRAL-TV. From the academic side, we had faculty and Ph.D students from Duke, the University of North Carolina, University of Texas-Arlington, Indiana University and the University of Michigan.

The first day featured presentations about existing projects that automate some aspect of fact-checking; the second day, attendees formed groups to conceive new projects.

The presentations showcased a wide variety of tools and research projects. Will Moy of the British site Full Fact did a demo of his claim monitoring tool that tracks the frequency of talking points, showing how often politicians said the phrase over time. Naeemul Hassan of the University of Texas at Arlington showed ClaimBuster, a project I’ve worked on, that can ingest huge amounts of text and identify factual claims that journalists might want to check.

IBM’s Ben Fletcher showed one of the company’s new projects known as Watson Angles, a tool that extracts information from Web articles and distills it into a summary that includes key players and a timeline of events. Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, a researcher at Indiana University, showed a project that uses Wikipedia to fact-check claims.

On the second day, we focused on the future. The attendees broke into groups to come up with new ideas for research. The groups had 75 minutes to create three ideas for tools or further research. The projects showed the many ways that automation can help fact-checking.

One promising idea was dubbed “Parrot Score,” a website that could build on the approach that Full Fact is exploring for claim monitoring. It would track the frequency of claims and then calculate a score for politicians who use canned phrases more often. Tyler Dukes, a data journalist from WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., said Parrot Score could be a browser extension that showed the origin of a claim and then tracked it through the political ecosystem.

Despite the focus on the digital future of journalism, we used Sharpies and a lot of Post-It notes.
Despite the focus on the digital future of journalism, we used Sharpies and a lot of Post-It notes.

Two teams proposed variations of a “Check This First” button that would allow people to verify the accuracy of a URL before they post it on Facebook or in a chat. One team dubbed it “ChatBot.” Clicking it would bring up information that would help users determine if the article was reliable.

Another team was assigned to focus on ways to improve public trust in fact-checkers. The team came up with several interesting ideas, including more transparency about the collective ratings for individual writers and editors as well as a game app that would simulate the process that journalists use to fact-check a claim. The app could improve trust by giving people an opportunity to form their own conclusions as well as demonstrating the difficult work that fact-checkers do.

Another team, which was focused on fact-checker tools, came up with some interesting ideas for tools. One would automatically detect when the journalists were examining a claim they had checked before.  Another tool would be something of a “sentence finisher” that, when a journalist began typing something such as “The unemployment rate last month…” would finish the sentence with the correct number.

The conference left me quite optimistic about the potential for more collaboration between computer scientists and fact-checkers. Things that never seemed possible, such as checking claims against the massive Wikipedia database, are increasingly doable. And many technologists are interested in doing research and creating products to help fact-checking.

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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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