FACT-CHECKING FACT-CHECKERS

  
Via:  buzz-of-the-orient  •  4 weeks ago  •  16 comments

FACT-CHECKING FACT-CHECKERS

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


FACT-CHECKING FACT-CHECKERS

Google “fact check” and you will run into some fascinating “fact-checkers” as well as fabricators and facilitators.


BY   D. LERNER-RUBIN, JERUSALEM POST,  OCTOBER 19, 2019


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Typing. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

Let’s assume that most people want to base their opinions on information that is factual, accurate and unbiased. Of course we all pick and choose our sources, and those sources are chosen based on our preconceived expectations. But we try to be objective. Reporters and journalists are taught to be objective. Of course, not everyone paid attention that day and reporters are in fact only human, and we all know about humans. We humans are not perfect, let’s leave it at that. Reporters are in a tough position and must constantly judge their sources. Everyone has an agenda, or so it seems. 

What is an information seeker to do? Fact checks seem to be a logical solution to challenge twists on truth, misrepresentations and out and out false information. They are proliferating with the fake news phenomenon. But many fact checking vehicles have their own agenda, naturally.

Google “fact check” and you will run into some fascinating “fact-checkers” as well as fabricators and facilitators. We skeptically investigated a few and threw in a rating system just for good measure – five stars is top honors, one star is just sad.

The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) of the Poynter Institute (“the world’s most influential school for journalists“) brings fact-checkers together from across the globe. Launched in September 2015 to refine and unify the growing science of fact checking, they aim to educate facilitators of news in getting it right. They publish a weekly newsletter, Factually, about fact-checking and accountability journalism, chock full of information for the truth-seeking public and journalists. IFCN set up a code of ethics and standards toward achieving veracity in reportage. They investigate and rate reporting from different organs. The IFCN certification has a one-year limit, and it offers transparency of its investigations. 

Politifact is the fact-checking organ of the Poynter Institute. This site (add .com to the name and you are there) has won a Pulitzer Prize – says so right in the logo. The visuals include a veracity meter, The Truth-O-Meter. Mostly true, true, half true, mostly false, false and pants on fire! Truth-O-Meter readings give an immediate indication of each report. Next to the meter is the quote or claim with an attribution and a little image of the claimant. Click on the small box to get the big story. You will get an in-depth, blow-by-blow, detailed examination along with confirmed facts backing the truth as determined by the Politifact team, including accreditations.

The graphics may be playful, but this is a very serious truth seeking organization with seemingly complete transparency. Politifact was created by The Tampa Bay Times in 2007 and was part of that newspaper until it was acquired by the Poynter Institute in 2018. They list donors and amounts donated on their site, and are beholden to no individual or organization. It claims to be financially self-sustaining. Inquiries are welcome. 

IFCN deemed Politifact compliant to its principles from June 20, 2019 to June 20, 2020. 
★★★★★ Five stars.

FactCheck.org describes itself as a “consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in US politics.” Launched in 2003 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, their mission statement states:

 “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in US politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major US political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”

From its inception in 2004 until 2010, it had been funded exclusively by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Annenberg foundation grants and the Flora Family Foundation. Since 2010, individual donations have been accepted. They boast financial transparency for anyone wanting to explore their backing. The Flora Family Foundation was founded by the Hewlett family “to promote the well-being of people everywhere.” 

Interestingly, FactCheck partnered with Facebook (!) in 2017 in order to “debunk viral deceptions circulating” on Facebook. Quite admirable, but they do get funding from Facebook. You read correctly. They claim that “Facebook has no control over our editorial decisions.” They offer detailed financial transparency, easily found on the site. 

They cover all the hot topics and people in the US, have some interesting affiliates in truth seeking including FlackCheck.org (for political literacy), NewsFeed Defenders – an educational game for students and teachers to develop tools for determining accuracy in information – Health Watch, SciCheck and Viral Spiral – an Internet rumor exposer. 

They look highly credible, but don’t seem to have applied for IFCN accreditation, so:
★★★★ Four stars from us.

Snopes.com is the tabloid version of fact-checking: think National Inquirer on crack. “The truth is around here somewhere“ greets you on the landing page. They claim to be the “Internet’s definitive fact-checking resource.” Begun in 1994 by exposing popular topics, i.e. urban legends, Snopes is the most veteran of online fact-checkers. An independent site with lots of pitches for funding, a store (get your $25 Snopes T-shirt there) and – oh boy! – buy membership in the near future. Topics tend to be light and, well, entertaining. But, wait: On May 14, 2018, Snopes became a registered signatory of the IFCN. It expired on May 14, 2019, and Snopes has not reapplied since. E for effort? Entertainment?

★★ Two stars, 
maybe two and a half. 

Factcheck 
Washington Post
The Washington Post began truth questing in 2007 during the 2008 presidential campaign. Only in 2011 did it become a permanent feature in at the Post. Their purpose “is to truth squad the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local.” 

Headed and staffed by a team of highly respected, seasoned journalists, their reveals are stringently factual, well written and researched. They are not dry reads, highlighted and summarized by Pinnochio-ish nose icons that rate the veracity of various claims. Checks are often initiated by readers' inquiries, which are encouraged. 

Keep in mind that The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The WaPo Fact Checker maintains its independence and clarifies that no person working on Fact Checker is involved in any political activity at any level. They have an up-to-date IFCN badge of compliance. 

★★★★★ Five stars.

TheWhistle.co.il is the only Israeli fact-checking site (not including Gil Hoffman). Color coding – blue is true, gray is sort of true/not true, red is just wrong – gives immediate information with more specific shades of truth graphed out along with a quote and photo of the utterer. 

TheWhistle adheres to IFCN standards, is a registered amuta (NGO) since August 2016 and boasts over 300 different truth investigations published since July 2017. They partnered with Globes in January 2019. Listed as their sources are radio stations Galei Tzahal, KAN Reshet Bet, 103FM Unlimited Radio, local radio, Galei Israel along with television stations KAN 11, Keshet 12, Reshet 13 and Channel 20 plus a variety of filmed and published news sites. 

Compliance to the IFCN’s code of principles in January 2018 confirms that none of the staff has “direct professional involvement in political parties and advocacy organizations.” However, a negative mark is raised with the funding – 16% from the New Israel Fund, 10% from the Morah Fund and 74% from private donors. Noted by the IFCN is the “supporting of leftist causes” of both funds, while each supports the rights of Israeli-Arabs and Ethiopian Jews, advocates for human and women’s rights and actively opposes government policy regarding those groups. The lack of transparency in both funding and spending is pointed out as negative and qualifies that the claim of IFCN compliance is out of place and challenged. Ouch. No revisions or updates have been found since joining Globes in 2019. 

At last check, the most recent entry was five days old, and it was a single entry. A lot happens in 5 days. 
★★ Two stars.

camera.org (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis) was founded in 1982, and is a special interest fact-checker. It exists to “promote accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.” It is non-partisan, and takes no position on issues or “ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Clearly, Camera is looking out for Israel and Jews without bias. Information is sourced from just about everywhere and it seems they will take on just about any questionable dissemination of information to provide indisputable evidentiary truth. 

Camera has programs on college campuses in addition to a social media presence. Members ($) reap greater information benefits.

The contribution page of the site offers links to financials, including IRS, for transparency. Forget the IFCN seal of approval with Camera.org – they are clearly in a different category, but notable if their special interest is your special interest. 
★★★★★ Five stars.

Timothy Leary coined the phrase “question authority.” Those words probably had as much, and possibly more impact on our view of the world than the LSD experiences associated with him. In a world glutted with easily accessed information, we have a responsibility to question the authority and veracity of information. Numerous fact-checking services exist. Many news services offer fact checking at least occasionally if not on an ongoing basis. If you are looking for the real story, you might find a fact checker helpful in your quest. Just keep the salt handy.


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Buzz of the Orient
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

My first question is - Who checks the fact-checkers who check the fact-chequers?

Secondly - If Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) is supposed to be such a great fact-checker, then why wasn't it in a class with Politifact, and other 5-star checkers?

Thirdly - How unbiased is IFCN that provides ratings and supposed credentials to the different fact-checking organizations?

Personally, having used MBFC a lot of times, and taking note of its judgment calls, I think it indicates a pro left-wing bias.  Why are we not permitted to use an alternative source, such as Politifact?

 
 
 
JBB
1.1  JBB  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago

When you speak of "We" do you mean the people of China, Israel, the US or everyone? A great GREAT BIG amount of what is not available to you in highly censored China is abundantly available to us in the West. China would never allow its citizens to be exposed to anything like the abundance of anti-American foreign propaganda Americans are currently suffering. We have a big problem here in the US with fake news and 99% of that currently comes from far rightwing sources...

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
1.1.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JBB @1.1    4 weeks ago

By "we" I meant us members of NT.  Yes, much is censored here, a lot more by XI Jinping than by the previous Chairman.  I admit I am frustrated by not being able to open Wikipedia, or watch non-Chinese movies on the internet (although I have 8 TV channels that show foreign movies 24/7 from around the world, about half being English language - American, British, Australian, South African, Canadian, etc. as long as they are at least 3 years old).  I don't miss Facebook or Twitter, but for international news I have Bing news, Yahoo news, British, Canadian, Australian, many Israeli English language news sites, and many American news sites although some like the New York Times are banned.  For information searches like google (which is banned here) I have Ecosia, global Bing, English language Chinese sites like Baidu, Encyclopedias like Britannica, and a couple of Chinese music channels where I can watch all kinds of music including movie musicals like Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, etc.

I really do have a lot more access than people think - only the loss of Wikipedia bothers me. 

 
 
 
r.t..b...
1.1.2  r.t..b...  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.1.1    4 weeks ago
I really do have a lot more access than people think

And you digest it with a sense of healthy skepticism and discernment, something we should all do. I've been remiss not acknowledging your contributions from afar...so thank you for your unique perspective as it always brings much to the conversation....Peace

 
 
 
JohnRussell
1.2  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago

Buzz, MBFC is not a fact checker. 

You are spreading misinformation yourself on a seed about misinformation. 

MBFC rates web sites as left center or right, or off the chart left or right, based on bias shown in the stories on the particular site, and also what the sites history is for truthfulness according to fact checkers. MBFC does not "check facts" themselves, therefore they are not interchangeable with fact checking sites. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
1.2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @1.2    4 weeks ago

But seeds we post are limited by having an MBFC seal of approval.  I have read the explanations provided by MBFC and they do refer to the truthfulness of the source as being a factor in their including or excluding them from being reliable sources.  The words "Fact Check" are part of their name. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
1.2.2  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1.2.1    4 weeks ago
Why are we not permitted to use an alternative source, such as Politifact?

Politifact does not rank websites true or false.   They rate individual statements true or false. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
2  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

Fact checkers and bias checkers are the same scam.  Opinion pundits (almost exclusively liberal) self appoint themselves as the arbiters of truth and offer subject subject analysis under the guise of objective fact. Sadly, the gullible and lazy among us accept these opinions as the revealed truth from on high and don't bother to actually think for themselves or even bother to read the opinions the checker offers to substantiate his opinion. There is a certain craving among intellectually insecure to simply have an authority tell them how to think, and fact checkers take advantage of that insecurity to manipulate the weak minded for partisan advantage.

While that's depressing enough, it's particularly sad to see some then misuse the fact checker's opinions in ways even the fact checker says is wrong. Witness the constant parroting of that "fact" that Trump has told X amount of lies in the last Y years. Of course, even the liberal pundit cited as the source of this little chestnut denies he's cataloging lies. How could he, when he admits he counts objectively true facts as false because Trump didn't spin the objectively true fact in the way the liberal pundit wanted him to, or because the admitted objectively true fact isn't "relevant" and is therefore "misleading." But the type of person who cites the gross number of lies isn't the type of person who reads the subjective analysis offered by the fact checking pundit, they just parrot the headlines without understanding what's actually going on. Even worse are those claim Trump lies X percent of the time, while the average politician only lies Y percent of the time. Those numbers display such a staggering ignorance of statistics and the methodology  in use as to make me embarrassed for them, even if they can't see how cringe worthy such arguments are themselves.

Bottom line is that Fact and bias checkers are just preying upon the weak minded who crave simple judgments from self appointed authority figures so they don't have to think for themselves. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    4 weeks ago
"Bottom line is that Fact and bias checkers are just preying upon the weak minded who crave simple judgments from self appointed authority figures so they don't have to think for themselves." 

Then are we deemed to be weak-minded because we are required to post seeds only if they are not declared unreliable by a fact checker?

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
2.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    4 weeks ago

en are we deemed to be weak-minded because we are required to post seeds only if they are not declared unreliable by a fact checker?

No, that's not what I meant. Capricious as they may be, the rules are the rules.

I was talking about those who those who uncritically accept the opinions  of these fact checkers rather than evaluating the issue at hand  for themselves. Likewise argumentem ad hominem is a logical fallacy for a reason, it's sad to see so many rely on attacking the source as their only means of argument. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
2.1.2  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    4 weeks ago

Agreed. Good article btw and your point is well taken. The idea of fact checking can easily be abused to make political points. Let me provide a prime example. Long ago, maybe 40 years ago, before these self described sites, there was a magazine style section of the Boston Sunday Globe called the "Parade Section".  I think other newspapers carried it as well. One feature of this magazine was a question & answer page. People would send in questions and they could read the so-called "factual" answers the following week. One that stood out in my mind all of these years was one involving the Geneva Convention. Somebody asked if all the combatants in WWII abided by the rules prohibiting the use of poison gas?  That should have been a simple answer - we all know, even with the most basic knowledge of the Second World War, that poison gas was not used on the battlefield. Yet the answer came back that Germany used poison gas to commit genocide against European Jews. gypsies and political opponents. Evidently, whoever answered that question, back in the shadow of WWII, felt that the evils of Nazi ideology needed to be underscored! I doubt very much that the answer would have been the same in this era. The answer can be easily twisted to make whatever point you want. How many questions of fact can be manipulated the same way?

As to the site we are forced to use I couldn't agree with you more. It is clearly slanted left!

 
 
 
Tacos!
2.2  Tacos!  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    4 weeks ago
There is a certain craving among intellectually insecure to simply have an authority tell them how to think

Well said. They also use the proclamation from the fact-checker to save themselves from having to debate an issue. They don't have to prove you wrong because the fact-checker has already said you are wrong. Case closed.

 
 
 
Ozzwald
2.2.1  Ozzwald  replied to  Tacos! @2.2    4 weeks ago
They also use the proclamation from the fact-checker to save themselves from having to debate an issue

Okay, I claim that there are rainbow farting unicorns all over the world.  Would you care to debate whether I am right or not?

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2.2.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ozzwald @2.2.1    4 weeks ago

It's all a matter of personal perception.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
3  dave-2693993    4 weeks ago

I actually kind of like the MBFC site for a certain reason.

When stating a point to someone who leans left I like finding a site which is also left leaning, Like wise when stating a point to someone who leans right I like to use a right leaning source.

Two problems though.

1. Many sites are not rated.

2. An inordinate number of folks are simply quarrelsome and will take the most simple black and white statements and convolute the hell out of them. F'n waste of time.

 

 
 
 
Tacos!
4  Tacos!    4 weeks ago

I have two basic beefs with so-called fact checkers.

First, is their rating systems, which, while probably good marketing, by their very nature oversimplify what are often complex topics.

Second, and most critical, is that very often they are fact checking opinions . I don't mean the facts underpinning the opinions, but rather the opinions themselves. When they don't agree with the subjective conclusion someone has reached, they end up labeling that person a liar for having an opinion.

Here's an example. It was on the top of the list because it's the most recent issue:

After attacks by Turkey, Trump falsely claims Kurds in Syria are much safer now

Politifact rates this "False" on their Truth-O-Meter. Is it? That's hard to say. The word "safer" is a comparison word. That means the measure of their safety now must be compared to that of some prior time. What is that prior time? No one knows. The article does not say. The White House is not saying either.

The White House and his campaign did not respond to our requests for information to support his claim.

So, Politifact does not know what led Trump to the determination that Kurds are much safer now and they do not know what his point of reference is. If he means compared to a month ago, they probably are not safer. However, if he means compared to five or six years ago, before they received American arms and training, then they probably are safer than they were before. Perhaps he meant safer as a result of a cease-fire as opposed to the fighting the day before.

One person they interviewed even offered a perspective whereby the Kurds might be considered safer but then this theory is disregarded.

Now that Russia is acting as their security guarantor, their position is more secure and they are better able to repel the Turkish-led offensive,"

Without knowing any of the facts behind the formation of Trump's opinion, Politifact boldly declares it to be false. That's not fact-checking and it's not journalism. Calling it either of those things is dishonest. That's just expressing an opinion. A more honest assessment might call it puzzling or unclear, but there is simply not enough information to label it "false." So, I rate Politifact's fact-checking as "False."

 
 
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