Commentary

PolitiFact’s misleading ‘Truth-O-Meter’ explainer

We saw something funny on PolitiFact’s Facebook page the other day. It was a video purporting to answer questions about PolitiFact’s trademarked “Truth-O-Meter” system for rating the relative truth of political statements. We would count the explanatory video as an unmitigated disaster. Much of PolitiFact’s video deserves critical commentary. We invite readers to watch the embedded video via YouTube before…
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Google search finds IFCN complaints at poynter.org

International Fact-Checking Network revised logo

On or about June 21, 2021, a Google search discovered a complaint we had submitted to the International Fact-Checking Network about PolitiFact. We’ve lobbied the IFCN for years to encourage it to adopt a more open policy with its system of complaints. We’d prefer for the public to have free access to all the complaints the IFCN receives about its…
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Quora, Felix Ling and Media Bias/Fact Check

Zebra Fact Check logo

Somebody at the question-and-answer website Quora asked whether the website “Media Bias/Fact Check” counts as trustworthy. A number of the answers to that question conveyed our view of that site, that the subjectivity of its methodology basically makes it a category error to gauge its trustworthiness. Quoran Felix Ling, on the other hand, considered it a key point that nobody…
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Fake accountability and the International Fact-Checking Network

International Fact-Checking Network revised logo

The International Fact-Checking Network has yet to figure out how to balance its role as a fact-checking advocate with its role in fact-checker accountability. The IFCN peddles the image that it verifies compliance with its Code of Principles. In practice, its accountability measures count as incredibly weak. The IFCN’s 2021 treatment of its Poynter Institute stable mate PolitiFact exemplifies the…
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Fact-checking ‘systemic racism’?

Zebra Fact Check has noticed a tendency among mainstream fact checkers to leave “systemic racism” alone as a fact-checking topic. The so-called “elite three” (FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Washington Post Fact Checker) all suffer a lack of content on the subject. A Democrat can state that systemic racism exists as a reality in any number of contexts and fact-checkers will ignore it….
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Juggling apples & oranges

Zebra Fact Check considers the avoidance of apples-to-oranges comparisons a completely basic task in fact-checking. Thus, it especially piques our interest when two mainstream fact checkers fact check the same apple fact with orange data when researching the same subject. During his inauguration speech, President Biden said the coronavirus deaths from the past year equaled the number of Americans killed…
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Transparency statement from IFCN lacks transparency

International Fact-Checking Network revised logo

The IFCN’s 2020 transparency statement about its “Code of Principles” enforcement strangely lacks transparency. The IFCN does a particularly bad job of explaining how it handles complaints about its signatory organizations. The IFCN first allowed the public to lodge complaints about its signatory fact-checking organizations in 2018. Little fanfare accompanied the move, continuing through 2019. But apparently word got out…
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The week in weak fact-checking

Zebra Fact Check logo

Mainstream fact checkers have had a terrible October so far in 2020. Their poor performance prompts this answer to the Poynter Institute’s “Factually” newsletter and its “The Week in Fact-checking” with what we’re tempted to call “The Weak in Fact-checking.” FactCheck.org Whitewashes Steele Dossier Annenberg Fact Check (FactCheck.org) chastised Republicans for citing an unverified intelligence report from Russia saying the…
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Snopes’ semantic contortions on Trump & taxes

Mainstream fact checker Snopes.com on Sept. 28, 2016 (tweeted out on its four-year anniversary) published a fact check on whether Donald Trump said not paying federal taxes made him smart. The fact check exemplifies one of the semantic games mainstream fact checkers end up playing: Interpreting claims to fit a narrative instead of giving them a natural contextual interpretation. The…
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Another International Fact-Checking Network failure on accountability

The International Fact-Checking Network has updated its system for verifying fact-checking organizations’ compliance with its “Code of Principles” in 2020. But in practice so far the new IFCN system seems no better than the one Zebra Fact Check tested in 2019. In 2019 the review of PolitiFact failed to mention complaints Zebra Fact Check submitted. The IFCN failed to deliver…
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