FactCheck.org

Organization: FactCheck.org
Applicant: Eugene Kiely
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago)

Michael Wagner wrote:

FactCheck.org is a fair, thorough, rigorous and transparent fact-checking entity that stands as a shining example of quality in the fact-checking world. Behaviors that would lead to the organization being fully compliant across all categories include: explaining an overview of their spending, indicating a time frame to move on suggested corrections and more clearly defining for the audience what makes for a checkable claim. Additional suggestions for improvement include: providing a link to a page that lists all corrections the organization has made and considering publishing claims that turn out to be wholly true, as these are of value for the audience to know as well - especially since the claim seemed "fishy" enough to check in the first place. These quibbles aside, FactCheck.org is an example of how to run a transparent, fair and excellent fact-checking site. I recommend the application be accepted.

on 25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago)

Michael Wagner recommended Accept


Section 1: Organization

Criterion 1a
Proof of registration
Evidence required: Please provide evidence that the signatory is a legally-registered organization set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking or the distinct fact-checking project of a recognized media house or research institution.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago)

We are a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, as indicated on our About Us page: http://www.factcheck.org/about/our-mission/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org operates as an exclusive fact-checking site. It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It appears to me that it is a legally registered organization as it maintains copyrights and solicits donations, but, as I searched the FactCheck.org website, I could not find direct evidence that it is a legally registered organization. I did find evidence elsewhere. 


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 1b
Archive
Evidence required: Insert a link to the archive of fact checks published in the previous three months. If you do not collect all fact checks in one place, please explain how the fact-checking is conducted by your organization.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago)
Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org clearly meets this requirement. The site publishes fact-checks on a regular basis. The reports evaluate distinct claims on the basis of their accuracy.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 2: Nonpartisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2a
Body of work sample
Evidence required: Please share links to ten fact checks that better represent the scope and consistency of your fact-checking. Provide a short explanation of how your organization strives to maintain coherent standards across fact checks.

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org conducts fact-checks of claims made by Democrats, Republicans, and news organizations. It also fact-checks viral messages that fly through social media outlets, such as one claiming that Fox News was not airing the Mueller hearings on July 24. They were. There is not an undue concentration on "one side" of the politiacl aisle in the fact-checks I reviewed from January 1-July 25, 2019. Moreover, there is not a concentration of fact-checking one sideof the partisan and/or ideological aisle to "exonerate" them while fact-checking another side to "catch them" in a false statement.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 2b
Nonpartisanship policy
Evidence required: Please share evidence of your policy preventing staff from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations. Please also indicate the policy your organization has as a whole regarding advocacy and supporting political candidates.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

We have a policy that staffers and students must sign that clearly states that they cannot be involved in any political or advocacy organizations, and they cannot make any contributions to such organizations.

In addition, we make clear on "Our Funding" page that we do not accept advertising or money from any person or organizations engaged in partisan politics. It says, in part, "We do not seek and have never accepted, directly or indirectly, any funds from unions, partisan organizations or advocacy groups. We do not accept funds from corporations with the exception of Facebook, which provides funding as part of Facebook’s initiative to debunk viral deceptions circulating on the social media site." https://www.factcheck.org/our-funding/

We also have a page on the website that describes "Our Process," which states that "we seek to devote an equal amount of time reviewing claims by Republicans and Democrats" and explain how we accomplish that. https://www.factcheck.org/our-process/


Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org requires their staffers and students to sign a document affirming they can't be involved in political advocacy. They do not accept money from political orgaizations that engage in partisan politics (both electioneering and governing). FactCheck.org does not engage in the taking of policy positions or advocacy on behalf of candidates.


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 3: Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3a
Sources Policy
Please share a brief and public explanation (500 words max) of how sources are provided in enough detail that readers could replicate the fact check. If you have a public policy on how you find and use sources for your fact-checking, it should be shared here.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

We provide embedded links to our sources in all of our stories. In addition, we also list sources at the end of these stories: Featured Posts, Ask FactCheck, Ask SciCheck and Debunking False Stories. These links are used by our staff to fact check our stories before they are published. In cases when links are not publicly available, we will upload documents to our website -- if possible.All this allows our readers to replicate the fact check.

We also have a public policy -- "Our Process" -- that explains how we select our sources and why. We rely on primary sources of information, such as government records and data, and nonpartisan government agencies, such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service. We also will use a few respected and trustworthy outside experts. The "Our Process" page can be found here: https://www.factcheck.org/our-process/

 

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org links to all of the evidence they use when conducting fact-checks. The Our Process page describes the various inds of sources they use to check claims. They also provide a video on their Our Process page that provides additional descriptions of their sources for fact-checking. In the fact-checks I reviewed, the sources are clearly described. Sometimes, documents are uploaded to the site if a link was not available. It should be possible for a person to replicate the organization's process, given the clarity of the sourcing. The sources are of a high quality, usually relying on offical, publically available accounts of matters directly relevant to the claim being checked.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 4: Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4a
Funding Sources
Evidence required: Please link to the section where you publicly list your sources of funding (including, if they exist, any rules around which types of funding you do or don't accept), or a statement on ownership if you are the branch of an established media organization or research institution.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago)

We publish quarterly financial reports on our website that explain in detail the types of funding that we do and do not accept: https://www.factcheck.org/our-funding/

We do not seek and have never accepted, directly or indirectly, any funds from unions, partisan organizations or advocacy groups. We do not accept funds from corporations with the exception of Facebook, as noted above, as part of Facebook’s initiative to debunk viral deceptions circulating on the social media site. We disclose the identity of any individual who makes a donation of $1,000 or more. We also disclose the total amount, average amount and number of individual donations. In 2015, Inside Philanthropy praised our disclosure policy for “exemplifying nonprofit transparency.”

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org is a model of clarity and transparency with respect to funding. They clearly list the support they get from Annenberg, Facebook and all individual donors about $1,000. It isi easy to find, on the Our Funding page. However, the organization does not set out an overview of spending.


done 4a marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 4b
Staff
Evidence required: Please link to the section detailing all authors and key actors behind your fact-checking project with their biographies. You can also list the name and bios of the members of the editorial board, pool of experts, advisory board, etc. if your organization has those.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago)

We provide bios of our current and past staff members here: https://www.factcheck.org/our-staff/

We also provide a list of our current student fellows here: https://www.factcheck.org/undergraduate-fellows/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org lists biographies for all staff members, including those who conduct fact-checks. They are very easy to find on the webiste. In fact, the site lists past staffers as well - a model of transparency and clarity. The site also lists the names of the student fellows who work on the site, but the biographical information about them is relatively skimpy.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 4c
Contact
Evidence required: Please link to the section where readers can get in touch with the organization.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

At the top of our homepage, we added a drop down menu called "ASK A QUESTION," which provides links for readers who want to submit questions for Ask SciCheck and Ask FactCheck.

The links:

https://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/

https://www.factcheck.org/askscicheck/

At the top of our homepage, the "About Us" drop down menu includes a link on how to contact us: https://www.factcheck.org/about/contact-us/

The "Contact Us" link also appears at the bottom of every page. 

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

It is easy for readers to reach out directly and request a correction or suggest a fact-check on a particular claim. Anyone moderately familiar with internet use would be able to find the portals to reach out to the organization.

https://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/ is one option.

Another, at the top of the homepage, is the "About Us" drop down menu includes a link on how to contact them: https://www.factcheck.org/about/contact-us/


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 5: Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5a
Detailed Methodology
Evidence required: Please link to a section or article detailing the steps you follow for your fact-checking work.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

"Our Process" page details the methodology we use to select, research, write, edit and, if necessary, correct or update our articles: https://www.factcheck.org/our-process/

The "Our Process" page also includes links to videos that we produced for International FactChecking Day last year that explain our process in more detail.

Those videos and others can also be found here: https://www.factcheck.org/2018/04/its-international-fact-checking-day/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org has a clear method for conducting fact-checks. It is clearly labeled and easy to find for members of their audience. The corpus from which they select their claims includes Sunday morning political talk shows, C-SPAN, campaign advertisements, congressional transcripts, presidential statements, campaign and official websites and reader inquiries. Once a claim is selected, it is carefully and transparently reported. After a significant editing process, fact-checks are published. Notably, they come without a "rating" (i.e. true, false, half-true). Fact-checks are treated holistically. 


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 5b
Claim submissions
Evidence required: Please link to the page or process through which readers can submit claims to fact-check. If you do not allow this, please briefly explain why.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

At the top of our homepage, we added a drop down menu last year called "ASK A QUESTION," which provides links for readers who want to submit questions for our features Ask SciCheck and Ask FactCheck.

The links:

https://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/

https://www.factcheck.org/askscicheck/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org clearly explains their process, but they do not make explicitly clear what is and is not a checkable claim. The site has several links and a video that explains their process and clearly explains what will be published as a fact-check. For instance, they note that if a claim checks out (i.e. they contact the claimant and the claimant satisifed FactCheck.org), they drop the matter. In my own view, checking claims that turn out to be true is a valuable service and should not be abandoned (but that is not related to the compliance criteria). The video does a better job of describing what can the audience can expect to be checkable, but that is a bit less accessible. I could not find evidence that the organizations gives statistics on the frequency of reader suggestions ending up as published fact-checks. They do provide a very easy-to-find and understand page that describes the most frequently suggested checks they receive.


done 5b marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 6: Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6a
Corrections policy
Evidence required: Please link to the page with your policy to address corrections. If it is not public, please share your organization's handbook.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

Our corrections policy can now be found in two places on our home page.

As in past years, our corrections policy can be found in the "Our Process" page.

However, at the request of a reader, we created a separate page and link to our correction policy to make it easier for readers to request corrections. We added it to the "About Us" drop down menu at the top of the home page. It says "Request a Correction," and links to this page: https://www.factcheck.org/request-a-correction/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

It is easy to request a correction of the organization. They note, "If any new information comes to light after we publish a story that materially changes that story, we will clarify, correct or update our story and provide a note to readers that explains the change, why it was made and the date it was made. Readers can contact us at editor@factcheck.org to request a correction or clarification.

Our goal, as stated in our mission, is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to serve as a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters, regardless of their party affiliation.

We treat conservatives and liberals alike and apply exactly the same standards of accuracy to claims made by both sides."

They do not provide an estimate of the timeframe it will take to determine if a correction is warranted.


done 6a marked as Partially compliant by Michael Wagner.

Criterion 6b
Examples of corrections
Evidence required: Please provide two examples of a correction made, or correction requests handled, in the past year.

FactCheck.org
24-Jun-2019 (9 months ago) Updated: 9 months ago

A reader pointed out a mistake in our story on GDP growth in 2018. We corrected our mistake and thanked our reader: https://www.factcheck.org/2019/03/spinning-gdp/

In this story, we used outdated CBO data on the impact of repealing the individual mandate on the number of uninsured. We corrected the story to include the latest data: https://www.factcheck.org/2019/02/factchecking-sanders-cnn-town-hall/

Michael Wagner Assessor
25-Jul-2019 (8 months ago) Updated: 8 months ago

FactCheck.org clearly and swiftly corrects known errors. They make readers aware of this in two ways. Under the byline, they list a publication date and a corrected on date for stories that needed correction. Additionally, they provide an italicized description of the correction at the end of the story. They do not have an easy to find location chronicling all corrections, which would provide even more transparency for the audience.


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.

Section 7: Eligibility to be a signatory

Criterion 1.1
The applicant is a legally registered organization, or a distinct team or unit within a legally registered organization, and details of this are easily found on its website.

Criterion 1.2
The team, unit or organization is set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking.

Criterion 1.3
The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the three months prior to the date of application.

Criterion 1.4
On average, at least 75% of the applicant’s fact checks focus on claims related to issues that, in the view of the IFCN, relate to or could have an impact on the welfare or well-being of individuals, the general public or society.

Criterion 1.5
The applicant’s editorial output is not, in the view of the IFCN, controlled by the state, a political party or politician.

Criterion 1.6
If the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, it provides a statement on its site setting out to the satisfaction of the IFCN, how it ensures its funders do not influence the findings of its reports.

Section 8: A commitment to Non-partisanship and Fairness

Criterion 2.1
The applicant fact-checks using the same high standards of evidence and judgement for equivalent claims regardless of who made the claim.

Criterion 2.2
The applicant does not unduly concentrate its fact-checking on any one side, considers the reach and importance of claims it selects to check and publishes a short statement on its website to set out how it selects claims to check.

Criterion 2.3
The applicant discloses in its fact checks relevant interests of the sources it quotes where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided. It also discloses in its fact checks any commercial or other such relationships it has that a member of the public might reasonably conclude could influence the findings of the fact check.

Criterion 2.4
The applicant is not as an organization affiliated with nor declares or shows support for any party, any politician or political candidate, nor does it advocate for or against any policy positions on any issues save for transparency and accuracy in public debate.

Criterion 2.5
The applicant sets out its policy on non-partisanship for staff on its site. Save for the issues of accuracy and transparency, the applicant’s staff do not get involved in advocacy or publicise their views on policy issues the organization might fact check in such a way as might lead a reasonable member of the public to see the organization’s work as biased.

Section 9: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Sources

Criterion 3.1
The applicant identifies the source of all significant evidence used in their fact checks, providing relevant links where the source is available online, in such a way that users can replicate their work if they wish. In cases where identifying the source would compromise the source’s personal security, the applicant provides as much detail as compatible with the source’s safety.

Criterion 3.2
The applicant uses the best available primary, not secondary, sources of evidence wherever suitable primary sources are available. Where suitable primary sources are not available, the applicant explains the use of a secondary source.

Criterion 3.3
The applicant checks all key elements of claims against more than one named source of evidence save where the one source is the only source relevant on the topic.

Criterion 3.4
The applicant identifies in its fact checks the relevant interests of the sources it uses where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided.

Section 10: A commitment to Transparency of Funding & Organization

Criterion 4.1
Applicants that are independent organizations have a page on their website detailing each source of funding accounting for 5% or more of total revenue for its previous financial year. This page also sets out the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).

Criterion 4.2
Applicants that are the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization make a statement on ownership.

Criterion 4.3
A statement on the applicant’s website sets out the applicant’s organizational structure and makes clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.

Criterion 4.4
A page on the applicant’s website details the professional biography of all those who, according to the organizational structure and play a significant part in its editorial output.

Criterion 4.5
The applicant provides easy means on its website and/or via social media for users to communicate with the editorial team.

Section 11: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Methodology

Criterion 5.1
The applicant publishes on its website a statement about the methodology it uses to select, research, write and publish its fact checks.

Criterion 5.2
The applicant selects claims to check based primarily on the reach and importance of the claims, and where possible explains the reason for choosing the claim to check.

Criterion 5.3
The applicant sets out in its fact checks relevant evidence that appears to support the claim as well as relevant evidence that appears to undermine it.

Criterion 5.4
The applicant in its fact checks assesses the merits of the evidence found using the same high standards applied to evidence on equivalent claims, regardless of who made the claim.

Criterion 5.5
The applicant seeks where possible to contact those who made the claim to seek supporting evidence, noting that (i) this is often not possible with online claims, (ii) if the person who makes the claim fails to reply in a timely way this should not impede the fact check, (iii) if a speaker adds caveats to the claim, the fact-checker should be free to continue with checking the original claim, (iv) fact-checkers may not wish to contact the person who made the claim for safety or other legitimate reasons.

Criterion 5.6
The applicant encourages users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable.

Section 12: A commitment to an Open & Honest Corrections Policy

Criterion 6.1
The applicant has a corrections or complaints policy that is easily visible and accessible on the organization’s website or frequently referenced in broadcasts.

Criterion 6.2
The policy sets out clear definitions of what it does and does not cover, how major mistakes, especially those requiring revised conclusions of a fact check, are handled, and the fact that some complaints may justify no response. This policy is adhered to scrupulously.

Criterion 6.3
Where credible evidence is provided that the applicant has made a mistake worthy of correction, the applicant makes a correction openly and transparently, seeking as far as possible to ensure that users of the original see the correction and the corrected version.

Criterion 6.4
The applicant, if an existing signatory, should either on its corrections/complaints page or on the page where it declares itself an IFCN signatory inform users that if they believe the signatory is violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN, with a link to the IFCN site.

Criterion 6.5
If the applicant is the fact-checking unit of a media company, it is a requirement of signatory status that the parent media company has and adheres to an open and honest corrections policy.