Commentary

The Secret to Transparency (Updated)

In late 2016 the International Fact-Checking Network issued a statement of principles held in common by its members.* Today we looked at the IFCN’s methods for evaluating compliance with its code of principles. Our examination of the process, as it is described, left us with concerns. In particular, the methods the IFCN chose to help ensure compliance with its statement…
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Poynter: A Florida gag order on climate change?

Note (Dec. 29, 2016): We have updated this item in response to a critique from Aaron Huertas, the main target of our criticism. Find a description of the changes as well as the original version of the article here. Did Florida’s state government issue a gag order stopping state employees from discussing climate change? A Dec. 22, 2016 article published…
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PolitiFact California walks back its ‘conversion therapy’ ruling

On July 29, 2016, we fact checked PolitiFact California’s ruling finding it “True” that Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence once advocated diverting federal money from AIDS care efforts toward gay “conversion therapy.” On Dec. 2, 2016 PolitiFact California changed its ruling to “Half True.” As with Snopes.com’s “Mixture” rating of the claim about Pence and conversion therapy, we regard…
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Is context optional at PolitiFact?

If it’s about Trump it’s too good to check? Fact checkers in 2016 (not to mention 2015) showed a tendency to take vague statements from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and upgrade those statements via interpretation into relatively clear statements. On December 2, 2016  a new PolitiFact story led us indirectly to a great example of this tendency. Lauren Carroll’s…
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Polls, fact-checking, and public trust

In the past month, two pollsters have collected data about how much the public trusts fact-checking. Rasmussen Reports On Sept. 30, 2016, Rasmussen Reports surveyed likely voters and found a low level of trust in media fact-checking: A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just 29% of all Likely U.S. Voters trust media fact-checking of candidates’…
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Live fact-checking: What could go wrong?

The mainstream fact checkers can’t seem to wait to grasp one of the Holy Grails of fact-checking: Live fact-checking. The problem? Live fact-checking leads directly toward a magnification of one of fact-checking’s standard problems, selection bias. In standard fact-checking, the fact checkers pick a claim and then take their time in (hopefully!) getting the facts right and then reporting on…
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“International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles”

It was announced on Sept. 15, 2016 that the “International Fact-Checking Network” had released its code of principles for fact checkers, with 35 organizations signing the document to commit to its principles. Zebra Fact Check commits to the the International Fact-Checking Network’s statement of principles, according the caveats expressed in the following signing statement. (1)  A COMMITMENT TO NONPARTISANSHIP AND…
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PolitiFact’s ‘Trump Effect’ failures

On Aug. 26, 2016, mainstream fact checker PolitiFact published a spectacularly awful examination of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that teachers were reporting a “Trump Effect” in schools involving an increase in harassment and bullying of some minority groups. PolitiFact relied for its evidence on an extremely flawed survey from the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center. PolitiFact also…
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Melania, plagiarism, media

It is July 21, 2016, and we’re seeing media stories about the short-lived outrage over the plagiarized lines in Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech from July 17. Let us pause to shed a tear for the hypocritical mainstream media. Back in 2014, our research led us to stumble across an apparent case of plagiarism at the Des Moines Register. We tried to interest some…
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American Press Institute’s call for better fact-checking

The American Press Institute published a call for better fact-checking on July 8, 2016. The authors, Jane Elizabeth of the American Press Institute and Alexios Mantzarlis of the Poynter Institute, set forth a checklist of items for fact checkers to consider as benchmarks. Without further ado: “Be the best about sourcing” Though we have worked to stand second-to-none in sourcing…
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