Verafiles Incorporated

Organization: Verafiles Incorporated
Applicant: Ellen T. Tordesillas
Assessor: Michael Wagner
Conclusion and recommendations
on 04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago)

Michael Wagner wrote:

Verafiles Fact Check is a fact-checking microsite of the larger Verafiles news site. It stands indepently and has its own staff that engage in fact checking of important claims made my political elites and other important sources of cultural import in the Philippines. The site conducts regular fact checks across a wide range of issues, producing work that is transparent and of a high quality. It is unclear how the site determines when to rate, and how, precisely, to rate, some claims and not others. That is, some fact checks come with a rating (such as "false," "mixture," and "Fake news"). Often these are related to fact checks done in partnership with Facebook, but it does not seem that it is always the case that ratings are on fact checks done for Facebook. I recommend that Verafiles either 1) use the same rating system for each fact check and explain to the audience what kind of claim is assigned to each rating category, 2) clearly identify when a fact check is in partnership with Facebook *and* provide a link to the rating system for those fact checks or 3) rate nothing on the rating system and provide wholisitic fact checks for all claims. Regardless of the choice, the key part of the recommendation is that Verafiles Fact Check makes it easier for the audience to understand how fact checks are assessed.

on 04-Oct-2019 (4 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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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
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Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago)

Verafiles is a legally registered organization that has a microsite, Verafiles Fact Check, that is a distinct fact-checking section of the larger site. I reviewed the version in English, not the version in Filipino.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago)

Verafiles Fact Check conducts regular fact checks that evalute distinct claims exclusively on the basis on their accuracy. The organization publishes regular fact checks and meets the requirement of averaging one per week over the previous three months.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

1.School textbooks enshrine Jose Rizal as national hero needs context (Aug. 26, 2019) 

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-school-textbooks-enshrine-jose-rizal-n

2. Angara’s claim that Filipinos ‘feel safer’ contradicts recent poll (June 18, 2019)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-angaras-claim-filipinos-feel-safer-con

3.Chong’s misleading claims on UV simulators for ‘pre-shaded ballots’ (May 21, 2019)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-chongs-misleading-claims-uv-simulators

4. Samira Gutoc gets ARMM police figures wrong (March 6, 2019)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-samira-gutoc-gets-armm-police-figures

5. Doc Willie Ong makes faulty claim on election surveys (Feb. 22, 2019)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-doc-willie-ong-makes-faulty-claim-elec

6. Pinoy Ako Blog WRONGLY claims WHO, EU and US all 'trust' Dengvaxia (Feb. 14, 2019)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-pinoy-ako-blog-wrongly-claims-who-eu-a

7.Enrile sings new tune on same-sex unions, (Dec. 10, 2018) 

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-enrile-sings-new-tune-same-sex-unions

8. In one speech, Duterte unloads 9 false claims (Nov. 15, 2018)

https://www.verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-one-speech-duterte-unloads-9-false-cla

9.PH’s top diplomat Locsin makes wrong claim about UN Human Rights Council(Oct. 25, 2018)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-phs-new-top-diplomat-locsin-makes-wron

10. Andanar falsely downplays inflation figures, accuses media of 'painting negative picture' (Sept. 17, 2018)

https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-andanar-falsely-downplays-inflation-fi

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. The team continues to adhere to the same standards.

VERA Files also has created 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?”

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Verafiles Fact Check covers a widse variety of subjects, ranging from claims made by political leaders to claims made in important modes of communication to large groups, such as claims in a school textbook. The topics are about newsworthy subjects and accounts for the potential reach of the claims. Verafiles follows the same process in every fact check, noting that the follow the IFCN certification principles and adhere to the SPJ Code of Ethics. 


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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/).

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Verafiles requires staff, and, notably, their trustees to not take money frmo politicians, parties or partisan groups. Political affiliations are also not allowed. Also barred are activities and meberships that have the potential to affect their independence or cause a conflict of interest. Verafiles Fact Check also adheres to the Phillippine Journalist's Code of Ethics, which also addresses nonpartisanship of journalists during election seasons.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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).

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

In the multiple fact checks I read, Verafiles Fact Check provides links to sources, generally presents multiple sources, when necessary, to corroborate claims, identify sources (not allowing unnamed sources). Verafiles Fact Check also uses videos in their reporting, generally offering the time code of the video to make it easier for readers to locate claims that earn Verafiles Fact Check's scrutiny. The evidence is directly related to understanding the veracity of the claim. It should be easy for audience members to follow the work done by the Verafiles Fact Check team (fact checks are submitted without bylines and are a team effort of the staff).


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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?” and on the article “Your questions on VERA Files’ funding sources answered” (https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-sheet-your-questions-about-vera-files-fundin)

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 2018 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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

I was unable to deterime fully the level of compliance here. Verafiles Fact Check reports donors and grant funding received, but I could not find a statement of the entire budget, which makes it impossible to know if thet are detailing each source of funding accounting for 5% or more of their total revenue for the year. I suspect they are, given the disclosures I identified in their application, but I am not sure.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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
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Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All authors and key actors are identified on the site. Biographical information (via a link to LinkedIn) of each reporter is available and easy to find.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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. In addition, “About Us” (http://verafiles.org/about) shows readers how to contact VERA Files. 

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Verafiles Fact Check invites readers to contact them with leads, comments and corrections. It is easy to figure out how to do this. Moreover, there are multiple ways to contact Verafiles Fact Check including the easy-to-find email, Facebook, Twitter and other modalities.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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 and print 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.

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

The process of a Verafiles Fact Check is clearly explained, but it is not clear why some fact checks have no label, some are labeled "misleading" and some are labeled "fake news," for example. There are a variety of tools provided by the site to explain their process, but that is different than explaining the methodology used to determine whether to provide some kind of specific label/rating to claim, such as "misleading" or "mixture" or "false" or to simply describe the claim and the evidence that can be brough to bear regarding the claim's accuracy. THe DIY guide is very well done, but it also does not explain why some fact checks get ratings, why they get the ratings they get and why other fact checks do not. Some ratings, such as "false" or "mixture," are a part of the Facebook efforts to fact check (and there is a very brief explanation of what those ratings mean), but it is not clear to the audience why some fact checks are for Facebook and some are not, nor is it clear why some get ratings for Facebook and others get ratings that do not appear to be connected to the Facebook ratings.


done 5a marked as Partially 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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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. A link (https://goo.gl/forms/mnUhJIlQEmOUMjc53) to a VERA Files Fact Check Reader Request Form automatically gets sent to readers who send a message via the VERA Files Facebook page. Readers’ requests are acknowledged in the articles. 

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

It is easy for readers to know how they can send claims to be fact-checked and the description of the methodology should help audience members to understand whether the claims the readers want checked are checkable. The definition of what is checkable, for Verafiles, turns on the appearance of the statement (i.e. news accounts) and whether there are primary sources to use to check the claim.


done_all 5b marked as Fully 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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months 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” or “mixture” 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). Here is an example of a Facebook publisher who has appealed to VERA Files and corrected their story: “Story on Dong-Hontiveros link NEEDS CONTEXT” (https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-story-dong-hontiveros-link-needs-conte).

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

The policy for corrections is a little vague. What I could find says, "Do call our attention right away. VERA Files has a correction policy. We correct substantive errors in our reports. We insert corrections in the original text with an accompanying editor’s note." It appears as though the policy is the same across the organization. The policy is a little underdeveloped in explaining item "a" and does not address item "b" in the "Fully compliant" button below.


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.

Verafiles Incorporated
08-Sep-2019 (5 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

From September 2018 to August 2019, VERA Files has not received requests for corrections.

Some public figures fact-checked by VERA Files have continued to issue statements – either acknowledging their mistakes or standing by their pronouncements. The VERA Files Fact Check team updates the article to incorporate the statements.

Here are examples:

1. “Angara wrongly claims Pacquiao first Filipino to speak at Oxford Union”(https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-angara-wrongly-claims-pacquiao-first-f)

2. “PCOO Asec. Rafael-Banaag contradicts official gov’t data on drug war”(https://verafiles.org/articles/vera-files-fact-check-pcoo-asec-rafael-banaag-contradicts-of)

Michael Wagner Assessor
04-Oct-2019 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

So far, there have been no requests for corrections.


done_all 6b marked as Fully compliant by Michael Wagner.