Lead Stories

Organization: Lead Stories
Applicant: Maarten Schenk
Assessor: Margot Susca
Conclusion and recommendations
on 02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago)

Margot Susca wrote:

On April 2, 2018, I completed my assessment of Lead Stories, which filed an appeal of an earlier decision.

It has a clear, well-defined mission fact-checking items that go viral, which it determines using Trendolizer data, which I’ll admit that I had not heard of until this assessment. This mission is clearly stated on its website--that Lead Stories’ purpose is to debunk claims that move through the online world as fake news or satire.

It fact checks a range of items, some political and some celebrity and some a mixture (Stormy Daniels is NOT pregnant with Bill Clinton’s baby, FYI) and some that appear to be clickbait like the morgue worker who did NOT get mistakenly cremated after he pretended to be dead for an April Fool’s joke.

It’s clear that the site does not take a position or side but rather seeks to clarify the record in some cases working against stories that go viral rather quickly.

In its appeal, Lead Stories noted they have added on their website the subhead: "Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True.” I think that speaks to the work the site is trying to do. That is, Lead Stories is working to combine the power of fact checking with its knowledge that the Internet can spread false/fake stories like wildfire. Some of the stories the site fact checks may seem ludicrous based on the headlines or the content, but, I believe, that is the nature of stories going viral online, and I give credit to Lead Stories for taking on the task of trying to correct the record where those items are concerned (oftentimes treating its fact checking work as breaking news it seems as the pieces register on the trend meter). Perhaps there needs to be a site out there dedicated to those posts and trying to correct the record.

I do offer my concern here as much as a citizen and journalism professor as IFCN assessor: I do wonder if in trying to correct the record Lead Stories is contributing to the spread of some of this information. But, its website does list items as a HOAX ALERT or FAKE NEWS so we must put some of the work on the audience to sort through what it finds online.

Its transparency is clear as it offers biographies of its small staff and the money it takes to run it and support it. Its application and site offer clear information about how it is organized, funded and run.

My recommendation is to accept.our conclusions, and issue a recommendation for the board.

on 02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago)

Margot Susca 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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

As explained here https://leadstories.com/how-we-work.html we generally take the most trending fake news/hoax/satire story of the moment (found through our Trendolizer engine that we use to monitor lists of known fake news/satire/prank websites) and attempt to debunk it, whatever the ideological slant (or lack of slant) of the story. Read the full article to learn about our standards and methodology, including our policy on headlines and images.

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3469052-fake-news-news-world-wtf-islamists-marching-in-denmark-demanding-a-child.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3469020-fake-news-pamela-anderson-famous-playboy-model-and-baywatch-star-did-not-die-aged-50.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468971-fake-news-christian-pastor-and-his-wife-not-stripped-and-humiliated-by-indians-in-uttar-pradesh.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3469063-fake-news-breaking-gay-pornstar-comes-forward-with-pence-accusations.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3469022-fake-news-florida-did-not-pass-bill-legalizing-recreational-use-of-marijuana.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468908-fake-news-trump-did-not-order-removal-of-obama-highway-name-back-to-previous-name-old-dixie-highway.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468903-fake-news-roy-moore-did-not-win-alabama-senate-seat.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468902-fake-news-wikileaks-did-not-release-deep-state-files-deepstatefiles.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468899-fake-news-man-not-arrested-after-making-over-1-million-selling-chuck-e-cheese-tokens-as-bitcoins.html

https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3468898-fake-news-busload-of-blacks-from-3-states-did-not-drive-to-alabama-to-vote-illegally.html


Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

None of our staff are involved in political parties. As an organisation we don't actively support or oppose particular candidates or parties. and we ask our staff to refrain from supporting any candidates for office or making donations to political organisations.

Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Where possible we always link to the articles or posts we are discussing so our readers can go look for themselves. If we think there is a risk the site or page might go down or be altered we will routinely use archive.is to create and link to a snapshot of something the way it was at the time we wrote our own article.

If we use online resources to check a claim we will include a link to these sources in the article.

When we (try to) use people or organisations as a source we will mention where the information came from (or who we didn't hear back from).

Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago

https://leadstories.com/contact.html

We prominently link to that page in the sidebar and ask readers to send us tips but we hardly get any. We primarily hunt for trending fake news ourselves, see our answer to 5a)

Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.

Lead Stories
02-Apr-2018 (2 years ago) Updated: 1 year ago
Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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

Margot Susca Assessor
13-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The evidence submitted is fully compliant with this criterion.


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Margot Susca.

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.