VERA Files Fact Check

Organization: VERA Files
Applicant: Yvonne T Chua
Assessor: Jeremaiah M. Opiniano
Conclusion and recommendations
on 16-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano wrote:

The media nonprofit Vera Files continues to adhere to the suggested criteria of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Since the last assessment in 2017, the inclusion of fact-checking for the local Filipino language is an innovation. Vera Files is perhaps the first media outfit in the Philippines to do Filipino fact-checking. (Context here is that almost all of the printed news publications in Filipino are daily tabloids that balance news, entertainment, sports and gossip articles).

From the last assessment, I observed that Vera Files also did fact-checking on the news audiences and social media influencers who are against President Rodrigo Duterte. This balances what some audiences in the Philippines largely perceive: fact-checking stories are predominantly anti-Duterte. If more of these fact-checking efforts for the anti-Duterte camp are done side-by-side with the pro-Duterte supporters, this will showcase the truest editorial independence of Vera Files. This also comes as Facebook tagged Vera Files as a fact-checking organization for the social media giant.

With the recent issues hampering some news media outfits in the Philippines (ownership, alleged "partisanship" that is then linked to market leanings and ownership), Filipino audiences may be looking for some media outfits that are willing to disclose their ownership structure and their finances. Ideally, doing such is like what The New York Times does when it releases annual financial reports on its company website. In general, unless the Philippine company is listed in the Philippine Stock Market, financial reports are not usually publicly released on their official websites. 

If Vera Files is willing and able, I strongly suggest that it becomes one of the pioneer news media outfits in the Philippines that publicly disseminates the official financial statements and (perhaps) ownership information. This is something its board of trustees can discuss. But for the sake of not just editorial independence but also transparency (which journalists usually ask of state actors in its stories), Vera Files can set the example. Whether the earnings are small or huge, financial and organizational transparency by Vera Files will make the organization more credible in its journalism. 

The year 2018 has been a very challenging year for the Philippine press. The year ain't even over. Ownership structures have been publicly castigated side-by-side with reporting biases. Actual court cases have been filed. Political forces continue to flood social media with influencers spreading misinformation and discrediting journalists. Meanwhile, journalists are still being killed across the country. 

But to the credit of Filipino journalists and news outfits, they still persist in reporting the news and try to display balance, accuracy and fairness.

The wish is that in this challenging year for Philippine journalism, Vera Files and its fact-checking efforts will display editorial independence, organizational transparency and a stronger watchdog disposition (overlooking pro- and anti-government forces and audiences). Doing all these within the remaining months of the year will be a symbolic triumph for Vera Files and for overall Philippine journalism.  

on 16-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano recommended Accept


on 15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano wrote:

Please write your conclusions, and issue a recommendation for the board. Once that is completed, please submit your assessment.

on 15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano 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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

Verafiles Inc. is an independent media nonprofit registered with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). It has been undertaking the fact-checking initiative “VERA Files Fact Check” since 2016. Information about VERA Files can be found in “About Us” (http://verafiles.org/about) and about VERA Files Fact Check in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you-want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check).                        

Files Attached
Verafiles_BIR.jpg (2 MB) picture_as_pdf 1a_Verafiles_SEC.pdf (1 MB)
Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Legally compliant. Just a minor suggestion: Given the passage this year of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) certificate of registration may have to be updated. All registered companies are asked by the TRAIN law to update their BIR certificates of registration. Surely this is a minor task for VERA Files to comply themselves with. 


done_all 1a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 1b marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

1. Mocha Uson wrong about federalism in Southeast Asia, 3 August 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-mocha-uson-wrong-about-federalism-sout

2. Anti-Duterte blogger posts inaccurate claim on ‘Build, Build, Build’ project, 05 July 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-anti-duterte-blogger-posts-inaccurate

3. Online post uses fake photos, falsely claims Kadamay leader owns P10.5M home, 14 June 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-online-post-uses-fake-photos-falsely-c

4. Musician Jim Paredes did not cause a flight delay, 08 June 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/week-fake-news-musician-jim-paredes-did-not-cause-flight-del

5. Palace social media consultant makes misleading claims on Senate probe into ex-Comelec chair Bautista, 06 June 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-palace-social-media-consultant-makes-m

6. Robredo flubs poverty and political dynasty data, 25 April 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-robredo-flubs-poverty-and-political-dy

7. Advocate flubs poverty data during anti-poverty book launch, 16 Jan 2018, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-advocate-flubs-poverty-data-during-ant

8. Duterte wrong in saying PH did not get anything from UN, 30 Oct 2017, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-duterte-wrong-saying-ph-did-not-get-an

9. Lawmaker wrongly insists data on child restraints lacking, 2 October 2017, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-lawmaker-wrongly-insists-data-child-re

10. DFA, PCOO spread fake news about outcome of PH human rights report at the UN , 27 Sept. 2017, http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-dfa-pcoo-spread-fake-news-about-outcom

VERA Files in July 2016 set the standards for its fact checking in its two-day editorial planning meeting. The standards were updated in 2017 after the IFCN issued the Code of Principles; they undergo thorough review every year. 

VERA Files also has templates to present its findings for multiple platforms to ensure consistency. “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you- want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) includes the item “Do you follow any standards when fact-checking?”

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

For a highly-charged Philippine political arena that social media embraced, Vera Files is to be credited for correcting both the pro- and anti-Rodrigo Duterte advocates. This approaches values balance and highlights the supposed independence of journalism.


done_all 2a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

VERA Files’ nonpartisan policy is stated in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you- want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) under the item "How sure are we that you’re not backed by a politician or political party?" 

VERA Files prohibits its trustees and staff from taking money from politicians, political parties or partisan groups, and from having political affiliations. Neither are they allowed to take on memberships, projects and activities that would compromise their independence and result in conflict of interest situations, real or perceived. 

VERA Files adheres to the Philippine Journalist’s Code of Ethics (https://www.philpressinstitute.net/journalists-code-of-ethics/), which has a lengthy provision on nonpartisanship of journalists during elections. 

The online media outlet Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) gives VERA Files a “least biased” rating (https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/vera-files/).

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

This is something Vera Files has adhered to since its founding. They may be, financial resources-wise, small. But their organizational independence is a premium for them. In the Philippines, media nonprofits like Vera Files have the good journalism amid resource challenges. 


done_all 2b marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

VERA Files Fact Check disallows the use of unnamed sources. It also gives preference to primary sources and observes multiple sourcing. Interviewees are identified in the articles. Hyperlinks to resources used its fact checks are provided within the text. At the end of each story, other sources are listed and, where applicable, linked to studies, documents and other online resources. Sources used in infographics and videos are also provided.

Links to statements, press releases, transcripts, and videos of speeches and news conferences of public figures that are fact-checked are also supplied. For videos, the time code is specified to make it easier for the audience to find that exact statement highlighted in the story. VERA Files follows a three-source policy for news reports and clearly states that at least three media networks used the same quote, or reported the event or incident.

VERA Files, however, has adopted the policy of not providing the links of blog and social media posts that contain fake news, mostly user-generated, so as not to unnecessarily amplify these.

VERA Files’ policy on sources is found in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you- want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) under the item "What are some of our do’s and don’ts when fact-checking?" and in VERAfied: A DIY guide to fact checking and fighting fake news (http://verafiles.org/articles/verafied-diy-guide-fact-checking-and-fighting-fake-news).

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 3a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

VERA Files Fact Check lists its sources of funding in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you- want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) under the item “Who funds VERA Files Fact Check?”

The fact-checking initiative is supported by Verafiles Inc. and the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED). VERA Files is also a third-party fact checker of Facebook. The exact sums VERA Files Fact Check has received from NED and the contributions/donations Verafiles Inc. received in 2017 are listed in this section.

About Us (http://verafiles.org/about) states the various sources of funds Verafiles Inc. relies on for its operations, including grants, the proceeds from the sale of its stories, and donations and contributions from its trustees and supporters. It also states that it screens donors, contributors and grantors carefully and does not accept funding that will compromise its independence and nonpartisanship. VERA Files discloses funding sources for its specialized reporting projects.

VERA Files submits annual audited financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. 

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Verafiles_AFS.pdf (7 MB) picture_as_pdf 4a_Verafiles sources... (31 KB)
Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

The item “Who does the fact-checking at VERA Files?” in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you- want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) lists all the members of the fact checking team. The names link to their LinkedIn accounts where readers can read their bios.  

Members of the board of trustees are identified in “About Us” (http://verafiles.org/about).  VERA Files annually files with the Securities and Exchange Commission a General Information Sheet that lists its officers.

Files Attached
picture_as_pdf Verafiles_GIS.pdf (4 MB)
Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4b marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

The item “Do you accept leads or contributions for its fact-checking initiative?” in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you-want- know-about-vera-files-fact-check) shows ways to contact VERA Files Fact Check, via email, Viber, mobile, Facebook and Twitter. The fact-check infographics also provide this information. In addition, “About Us” (http://verafiles.org/about) shows readers how to contact VERA Files.

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 4c marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

VERA Files provides in detail its fact-checking process in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you-want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) under the question, “How do you fact-check?” An infographic explains the methodology, which is called the “VERA Files Fact Checking Process.” 

The methodology is also explained in the online publication, “VERAfied: A DIY guide to fact checking and fighting fake news” (http://verafiles.org/articles/verafied-diy-guide-fact-checking-and-fighting-fake-news). VERA Files also explains what it does as a third-party fact checker for Facebook in “VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program in PH explained” (http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-sheet-facebooks-third-party-fact-checking-pr). 

VERA Files also uses a quiz -- How good a fact checker are you ? (http://verafiles.org/articles/how-good-fact-checker-are-you-20) -- to help explain its methodology.

Since April 2018, a link to “VERAfied: A DIY guide to fact checking and fighting fake news” (http://verafiles.org/articles/verafied-diy-guide-fact-checking-and-fighting-fake-news) is provided at the end of every article.

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

Vera Files' approach not only explains how it checks facts. it also empowers audiences to do the same. 


done_all 5a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

The item “Do you accept leads or contributions for its fact-checking initiative?” in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you-want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) shows where readers can send claims they would like VERA Files to fact-check. Readers’ requests are acknowledged in the articles. Here are two examples: “Mocha Uson wrong about federalism in Southeast Asia” (http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-mocha-uson-wrong-about-federalism-sout) and “Duterte wrong in saying PH did not get anything from UN” (http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-duterte-wrong-saying-ph-did-not-get-an).

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 5b marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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.

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)

The correction policy can be found in the item “What if the fact-check team makes a mistake?” in “What you want to know about VERA Files Fact Check” (http://verafiles.org/articles/what-you-want-know-about-vera-files-fact-check) as well as in “About Us” (http://verafiles.org/about). 

Publishers who get a “false” rating from VERA Files and receive a notification from Facebook under the third-party fact checking program can appeal to VERA Files. The information is provided in the item “How does one fact-check the fact checkers?” in “VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program in PH explained” (http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-sheet-facebooks-third-party-fact-checking-pr).

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 6a marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

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

VERA Files
11-Aug-2018 (1 year ago) Updated: 1 year ago

In early September 2017, VERA Files received a request from Philstar.com to run a clarification after it debunked a news report posted on PhilStar.com that Duterte had signed a new law criminalizing fake news (Did Duterte sign a new law that criminalizes fake news? http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-did-duterte-sign-new-law-criminalizes). But the request had nothing to do with the substance of the fact check. VERA Files accommodated the request of the PhilStar.com editor to add to the fact check that (1) the article was originally published by the newspaper The Philippine Star and (2) The Philippine Star and PhilStar.com are separate companies.

After VERA Files fact-checked in May 2018 a statement issued by four media groups on the journalists’ killings in President Duterte’s 22 months in office (Media groups err on figures on media killings; Roque claim on press freedom wrong http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-did-duterte-sign-new-law-criminalizes), it received and promptly published the reaction of one of the media groups, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, that it was standing by the findings. It also published on its own the reaction of another media group, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), even if it was not furnished a copy of the statement. In an editor’s note, VERA Files explained why it chiefly relied on CMFR’s published database.

VERA Files has not received other requests for corrections.

In recent months, several public figures who have been fact-checked by VERA Files have issued statements acknowledging their mistakes. VERA Files Fact Check team updates the entries to incorporate the statements.  Here is an example: "Palace social media consultant makes misleading claims on Senate probe into ex-Comelec chair Bautista" ( http://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-palace-social-media-consultant-makes-m)

Jeremaiah M. Opiniano Assessor
15-Aug-2018 (1 year ago)
Criterion empty.

done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.