Ferret Fact Service

Organization: Ferret Fact Service
Applicant: Alastair Brian
Assessor: Raymond Joseph
Edits made by the organization after this assessment

IFCN Staff wrote:

Ferret Fact Service added a clarification on its nonpartisanship and political advocacy policy in its About Us section. https://theferret.scot/about-us/

The website is also adding a call to submit claims to fact-check at the bottom of each article and building a form for readers to use.


Conclusion and recommendations
on 10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Raymond Joseph wrote:

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) offers a combination of fact-checks and investigative reporting. Several of their investigations have won awards and some have been followed up by the mainstream media. FFS has an interesting hybrid model that generates funding from a variety of sources, ensuring that they are not dependent on any single source or donor. This includes conventional funders, member subscriptions and events. A subscription allows FFS members unlimited access to the site and also value added services like special member events and training. It is interesting that they also often fact-check posts to social media platforms, which is essential as that is where much mis- and disinformation is being spread. Although FFS was only launched this year they have made excellent progress and make an important contribution to truth and fact-checking in Scotland.

I have no hesitation in recommending that their application be accepted, but with a few minor recommendations.

They are:

2b) At present the policy regarding advocacy/political positions from the organization and its staff is not clearly and unequivocally spelt out in one place. I would highly recommend that this be added in the “About” so that this information is easy to find by anyone who seeks details.

5b) It is not easily clear how to submit something for fact-checking. I suggest that a “Submit a Fact-Check” link be added in an easy to find place. This might be done by adding a link to the drop down menu of the site’s content. Alternatively, a “Submit a fact-check” link could be included on the Fact-Check page, where fact-checked content is published. This should link to a page or section that gives details of the various options (email, FB, Twitter or Community Forum), to make a submission. 

on 10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Raymond Joseph recommended Accept with edits


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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

See attached PDF from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority of Ferret Media Limited as proof that FFS is registered as a cooperative.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is the fact-checking arm of investigative not-for-profit co-operative The Ferret. We are non-partisan, and our board members are not members of any political parties.

We check statements from politicians, public figures and memes across the political spectrum, with a particular focus on issues which affect Scotland. We always give the claimant the chance to provide evidence before we publish.

We regularly seek guidance from experts to ensure we are proceeding accurately, and all of our source material is publicly available and linked within our finished fact checks.

We don't check opinion or speculation, but verifiable claims which are in the public domain. Our policy for fact-checking is publicly available and was developed through consultation with existing fact checkers including The Conversation, The Journal.ie and Fact Check NI.

All of our fact checks go to our three-person FFS panel of experienced Ferret journalists who check articles for accuracy and to ensure they are non-partisan.

Our checks have a clear, standardised rating system which is explained in detail on our website and linked from each article.

We have published our methodology so readers can see exactly what our fact checking methods are.

  1. https://theferret.scot/does-scotland-have-best-emergency-nhs-waiting-times-uk/ 
  2. https://theferret.scot/snp-overseen-biggest-work-poverty-increase-since-devolution/ 
  3. https://theferret.scot/one-in-five-children-dont-leave-primary-school-functionally-illiterate/ 
  4. https://theferret.scot/snp-increase-education-attainment-gap/ 
  5. https://theferret.scot/independent-scotland-queue-eu-membership/ 
  6. https://theferret.scot/scotland-3bn-conservative-dup-deal-barnett/ 
  7. https://theferret.scot/ruth-davidson-army-rules-military-uniform/ 
  8. https://theferret.scot/labour-train-stations-scotrail-failed-targets/ 
  9. https://theferret.scot/fact-check-sturgeon-unemployment/ 
  10. https://theferret.scot/scotland-country-coca-cola-popular-irn-bru/

Live fact check blog: https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service-live-blog-scottish-election-leaders-debate/

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

From The Ferret's About page: "It will not be owned by some distant corporation: it will be owned by its members and run as a not-for-profit operation in Scotland. It will not be aligned with any political party or any vested interest. It will be utterly transparent and totally accountable in all it does."

https://theferret.scot/about-us/

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Ferret Fact Service added a clarification on its nonpartisanship and political advocacy policy in its About Us section. https://theferret.scot/about-us/

---

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is the fact-checking arm of investigative not-for-profit co-operative The Ferret. We are non-partisan, and our board members are not members of any political parties.” From FFS application

"It will not be owned by some distant corporation: it will be owned by its members and run as a not-for-profit operation in Scotland.” from the FFS “About” page (https://theferret.scot/about-us/):

It will not be aligned with any political party or any vested interest. It will be utterly transparent and totally accountable in all it does." From the FFS application

All of our fact checks go to our three-person FFS panel of experienced Ferret journalists who check articles for accuracy and to ensure they are non-partisan.” From https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service/


done 2b marked as Partially compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Our methodology was published before we began Ferret Fact Service, and was written with reference to existing fact-check organisations and in line with the IFCN code of principles.

We use publicly available sources in all of our checks, and aim to link to primary sources where possible so readers can see how fact checks are put together, and research for themselves.

When a fact check requires interpretation of different academic sources, we will often seek guidance from experts and provide a wide range of articles, reports etc to ensure we get an accurate picture of an issue.

We regularly use graphs, tables and other charts to illustrate our fact checks, with the data source linked. Where direct linking is not possible, for example where information must be downloaded, we often rehost via Document Cloud so it can be read online.

The Ferret also has a searchable database of all of our hosted documents and data. https://theferret.scot/archive/

When the claimant sends us supporting evidence for a statement, we make clear in our fact checks what information they have provided and include it as part of our examination of the evidence.

https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service/

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Missing


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

https://theferret.scot/about-us/ See also: Quarterly transparency reports on our Community forum here - https://community.theferret.scot/c/feedback

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf 4a - Ferret Annual R... (846 KB)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Quarterly transparency reports are published on FFS Community Forum (https://community.theferret.scot/c/feedback) that includes details of finances and reports-back to members. Subscribers are also sent annual and other reports via email

Funding in 2017 came from a variety of sources, according to the 2017 Ferret Annual Report. (See attached PDF). This included donor funding of €50,000 from the Google Digital News Initiative and a £5000 grant from the Seedbed Trust. An additional £3.099.62 was raised from a summer “crowdfunder campaign” and £634 came from ticket sales at Ferret organised events. The organistion is member run and subscriptions (https://theferret.scot/paywall/) play an important part in raising funds and securing FFS’s independence.

See “Funders” for further details relating to sources of funding https://theferret.scot/about-us/


done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

See Who’s behind this? On the About Us page https://theferret.scot/about-us/


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

https://theferret.scot/contact/ This page also contains useful instructions on how to make secure tip-offs and leaks to FFS

FFS was the first publisher in Scotland to be regulated by independent media watchdog Impress and tells readers how to submit a complaint to that body. (https://theferret.scot/about-us/) FFS states that they have also pledged to uphold the principles of the voluntary code of practice for social enterprise in Scotland


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

Details of fact-checking methodology, what is checked etc https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service/


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Readers can submit fact checks via email at factcheck@theferret.scot as well as via Twitter and Facebook, and on our Community forum at https://community.theferret.scot/c/Fact-checking-FFS 

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

The website is also adding a call to submit claims to fact-check at the bottom of each article and building a form for readers to use.

---

Readers can submit fact checks via email at factcheck@theferret.scot as well as via Twitter (https://www.facebook.com/theferret.scot/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theferret.scot/) , and on the FFS Community forum at https://community.theferret.scot/c/Fact-checking-FFS (See recommendation)


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

FFS corrections: https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service, Ferret complaints: https://theferret.scot/complaints/

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

For details of FFS corrections policy see “Corrections and Updates”: https://theferret.scot/ferret-fact-service


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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

Ferret Fact Service
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Oct-2017 (2 years ago)

done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.