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theferret.scot/category/fact-check
Combating ‘fake news’:
Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
What is Ferret Fact Service?
● Scotland’s first fact-checking service
● Set up after funding from Google, but editorially ...
International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)
● Accredited by international body in October 2017
● First in Scotland and thir...
Trust in media
● The public is becoming more cynical of politicians
● But similar lack of trust in media
● Post-Indyref an...
Fact-checking
What is fact-checking?
● Checking claims by politicians and public figures for accuracy - the focus of
Ferret Fact Service...
What is fact-checking?
● Our politicians and public figures make many claims
● Daily political discourse is full of claim ...
Social media challenge
● The explosion of social media in recent years has posed challenge to news
● More and more, people...
Viral image debunking
● Is there a source?
● Event-based - the same picture used for different events
● Does it look too g...
Fake news
What is ‘fake news’?
● In recent years, term has become more widely used and misused
● Websites which are made to look lik...
How to spot ‘fake news’?
● Is the story unlikely/ridiculous/impossible?
● Check beyond the headline
● Look closely at the ...
So… what do we fact-check?
● Ferret Fact Service focuses on fact-checking politicians and public figures
● Hundreds of cla...
We can’t check everything!
There are too many claims, and many of them are not worth checking:
● Subjective statements (e....
The life of
a fact
checker
Credit: XKCD
Good claims to fact-check
● Evidence-based statements (e.g. One in five Scots leave primary school
functionally illiterate...
Spotting dodgy claims
● Claims which make absolute statements (e.g. Scotland has the
worst/best/fastest/slowest/most/fewes...
Spotting dodgy claims
● Claims which you see over and over on social media without supporting
evidence (memes, bloggers et...
Checking a claim
Step One - What is the claim?
● CLAIM "The SNP has been in sole charge of education for a decade, and
these failings are i...
Step Two - Where has the claim come from?
● This claim was made after FMQs earlier this year when a new Scottish
Governmen...
Step Two - Where has the claim come from?
Reliable news
report ---->
Official
figures ---->
Step Two - Where has the claim come from?
● Find the most recent statistics on the Scottish Government website
● For the S...
Step Three - Check claim against source
● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate”
● SSLN assess...
Step Three - Check claim against source
● Reporting categories have no mention of functional illiteracy
● In fact, no ment...
Step Three - Check claim against source
● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate”
● UNESCO defi...
Step Three - Check claim against source
● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate”
● Can we repl...
Step Three - Check claim against source
● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate”
● We could no...
FFS golden rules of fact-checking
● Understanding the claim
● Look closely at the wording
● Is the source of the claim rel...
Our sources for fact-checking
GOOD - Scottish Government statistics website, National Records Scotland,
Office For Nationa...
Our verdicts
● Our verdicts are on a six-point scale from True to False
● With a special verdict for some outrageous claim...
The Ferret Fact Service scale
● True – The claim is accurate, and has not left out mitigating factors or
important context...
The Ferret Fact Service scale
● True – The claim is accurate, and has not left out mitigating factors or
important context...
Impact of fact-checking
● Now around 20 per cent of claims that we take on are from public
suggestions
● Forcing politicia...
Challenges
● How do we reach people who are not inclined to read fact-checks?
● FFS has used print media partnerships, pub...
“A lie can travel halfway around the world before
the truth can get its boots on”
- Mark Twain
“A lie can travel halfway around the world before
the truth can get its boots on”
- Mark Twain
theferret.scot/category/fact-check
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
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Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world

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Alastair Brian, Fact Checker, Ferret Scot

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Combating ‘fake news’ – Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world

  1. 1. theferret.scot/category/fact-check Combating ‘fake news’: Separating fact from fiction in an ever-changing world
  2. 2. What is Ferret Fact Service? ● Scotland’s first fact-checking service ● Set up after funding from Google, but editorially independent ● Part of award-winning investigative journalism platform, The Ferret ● Launched in spring 2017 ● Aim to help restore trust in Scottish media and cut through the political spin ● Featured in Sunday Herald, Irish Times and Daily Record
  3. 3. International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) ● Accredited by international body in October 2017 ● First in Scotland and third in UK to be accepted ● Signed up to code of principles on non-partisanship and transparency
  4. 4. Trust in media ● The public is becoming more cynical of politicians ● But similar lack of trust in media ● Post-Indyref and Brexit, trust in news media reduced ● Traditional sources (newspapers, TV) are losing monopoly over news coverage ● More and more, people bypass mainstream news for alternative sources ● But the information is not always accurate
  5. 5. Fact-checking
  6. 6. What is fact-checking? ● Checking claims by politicians and public figures for accuracy - the focus of Ferret Fact Service ● Spotting false news stories ● Debunking viral images and memes shared on social media ● Thinking critically about information you are told is true
  7. 7. What is fact-checking? ● Our politicians and public figures make many claims ● Daily political discourse is full of claim and counterclaim from opposing views ● Can be difficult to cut through the spin ● Overwhelming number of claims go unchecked ● We aim to provide clarity, and test claims made by most powerful in society ● No interest in comment, just evidence
  8. 8. Social media challenge ● The explosion of social media in recent years has posed challenge to news ● More and more, people get their information through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter ● Hard to separate fact from fiction on your Facebook timeline ● Images and memes shared across social media platforms without being verified
  9. 9. Viral image debunking ● Is there a source? ● Event-based - the same picture used for different events ● Does it look too good to be true/impossible? ● If it comes from Twitter/Facebook, who is sharing it? ● Use reverse image search to source original image/context ● https://images.google.co.uk or https://tineye.com/
  10. 10. Fake news
  11. 11. What is ‘fake news’? ● In recent years, term has become more widely used and misused ● Websites which are made to look like genuine news pages ● Made-up stories, miraculous claims, ludicrous clickbait ● Created to sell advertising or push propaganda ● Significant impact on Brexit and US election ● Not always that easy to spot
  12. 12. How to spot ‘fake news’? ● Is the story unlikely/ridiculous/impossible? ● Check beyond the headline ● Look closely at the URL ● Is anyone else reporting it? ● Check the author - no byline? ● What the story based on? Is there a source? ● Is it satire?
  13. 13. So… what do we fact-check? ● Ferret Fact Service focuses on fact-checking politicians and public figures ● Hundreds of claims made every week as part of day-to-day political discourse. ● Watching the news, reading newspapers or websites, we see claims which dominate the headlines. ● We look at these critically, do the claims seem suspect?
  14. 14. We can’t check everything! There are too many claims, and many of them are not worth checking: ● Subjective statements (e.g. Scotland’s record on tackling poverty is not good enough.) ● Moral arguments (e.g. It is wrong for the Tory party to support the renewal of Trident submarines.) ● Claims about the future (e.g. We would be economically better off after Scottish independence)
  15. 15. The life of a fact checker Credit: XKCD
  16. 16. Good claims to fact-check ● Evidence-based statements (e.g. One in five Scots leave primary school functionally illiterate - Scottish Conservatives) ● Based on statistical data or alleged historical fact ● It is very unlikely for a politician (in this country) to make a statistical claim without ANY evidence ● But the claim may not give a full picture of the evidence ● Selectively quoting experts and statistics to obscure or massage the truth ● By fact-checking the claim, we are trying to get the full story
  17. 17. Spotting dodgy claims ● Claims which make absolute statements (e.g. Scotland has the worst/best/fastest/slowest/most/fewest X) ● Using total numbers rather than proportions ● Comparisons between Scotland and the rest of the UK ● Statements without clear context
  18. 18. Spotting dodgy claims ● Claims which you see over and over on social media without supporting evidence (memes, bloggers etc) ● Differing claims from politicians on the same issue ● Anything which seems too good to be true, goes against majority of other claims (not always)
  19. 19. Checking a claim
  20. 20. Step One - What is the claim? ● CLAIM "The SNP has been in sole charge of education for a decade, and these failings are inexcusable. One in five children leave [Primary] school functionally illiterate." - Ruth Davidson ● Which parts are fact-checkable? ● “The SNP has been in sole charge of education for a decade” - CHECKABLE ● “These failings are inexcusable” - NOT CHECKABLE ● “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate” -CHECKABLE
  21. 21. Step Two - Where has the claim come from? ● This claim was made after FMQs earlier this year when a new Scottish Government report came out on Scottish pupil standards ● FMQs broadcast featured both Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale citing Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy. ● This was the primary measure of pupil standards, but will be replaced next year. ● Good newspaper/TV reports on the claim will cite the source, otherwise we head to Google! (other search engines are available)
  22. 22. Step Two - Where has the claim come from? Reliable news report ----> Official figures ---->
  23. 23. Step Two - Where has the claim come from? ● Find the most recent statistics on the Scottish Government website ● For the SSLN we find that Literacy and Numeracy reports are published in alternate years ● Claim was made prior to 2016 report release, so uses 2014 figures ● Check that claim has not used older statistics than were available at the time to make point
  24. 24. Step Three - Check claim against source ● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate” ● SSLN assessed pupils at P4, P7, and S2 to establish their reading, writing, listening and talking skills ● So claim is likely referring to leaving Primary school (we checked) ● If we can avoid it, we try not to rely on newspaper articles on results, can have spin, errors etc. ● Time to have a look at the report itself...
  25. 25. Step Three - Check claim against source ● Reporting categories have no mention of functional illiteracy ● In fact, no mention of it in whole report ● This is big clue about accuracy of claim
  26. 26. Step Three - Check claim against source ● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate” ● UNESCO defines functional illiteracy as a “person who cannot engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective function of his or her group and community and also for enabling him or her to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his or her own and the community’s development.” ● Refers to functioning in adult society, not Primary school age
  27. 27. Step Three - Check claim against source ● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate” ● Can we replicate the claim in the source material ● This table shows 20 per cent of S2 pupils are in bottom two reading categories ● But does not show ‘functional illiteracy’, and not when leaving school.
  28. 28. Step Three - Check claim against source ● CLAIM: “One in five children leave school functionally illiterate” ● We could not replicate statistic in evidence but were still unsure so contacted the statistical body for clarification ● We decided that the definition of functional illiteracy the Scottish Conservatives were using was not clear, and the claim of one in five was not supported by the statistics, so gave the claim a False rating ● But not always so clearcut. As you know, data can be difficult/unsatisfying
  29. 29. FFS golden rules of fact-checking ● Understanding the claim ● Look closely at the wording ● Is the source of the claim reliable? ● Head for the original statistical material ● Be suspicious of big claims ● Look for wider context ● Be wary of viral images and stories on social media
  30. 30. Our sources for fact-checking GOOD - Scottish Government statistics website, National Records Scotland, Office For National Statistics, University websites, public bodies, What Do They Know, They Work For You, FOI responses OK - Pressure groups, newspapers/news websites, academic blogs BAD - Partisan websites, opinion pages, social media, pub chatter
  31. 31. Our verdicts ● Our verdicts are on a six-point scale from True to False ● With a special verdict for some outrageous claims - FFS! ● The verdicts are only to give an indication, and claims should not be reduced to overly simplistic True/False
  32. 32. The Ferret Fact Service scale ● True – The claim is accurate, and has not left out mitigating factors or important context ● Mostly True – The claim is still true, but requires further information or clarification to create a full picture ● Half True – The claim is somewhat or partially accurate, but leaves out crucial information or is selectively taken out of context ● Mostly False – The claim may contain a kernel of truth but leaves out facts which lead one to a different impression. ● False – The claim is incorrect, not accurate. ● FFS! (For Facts’ Sake) – The claim is baseless, ridiculous and/or logically impossible!
  33. 33. The Ferret Fact Service scale ● True – The claim is accurate, and has not left out mitigating factors or important context ● Mostly True – The claim is still true, but requires further information or clarification to create a full picture ● Half True – The claim is somewhat or partially accurate, but leaves out crucial information or is selectively taken out of context ● Mostly False – The claim may contain a kernel of truth but leaves out facts which lead one to a different impression. ● False – The claim is incorrect, not accurate. ● FFS! (For Facts’ Sake) – The claim is baseless, ridiculous and/or logically impossible!
  34. 34. Impact of fact-checking ● Now around 20 per cent of claims that we take on are from public suggestions ● Forcing politicians to stop re-stating false claims ● University of Exeter/Dartmouth College report found exposure to fact-checking had a positive effect on accuracy ● Google, Facebook and Amazon Echo using third-party fact checkers to improve news content
  35. 35. Challenges ● How do we reach people who are not inclined to read fact-checks? ● FFS has used print media partnerships, public workshops and teaching in universities ● A well-researched fact is unlikely to be as interesting as an exciting fake news story ● Network of fact-checkers is building and discipline is becoming more mainstream, but work still to be done
  36. 36. “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” - Mark Twain
  37. 37. “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” - Mark Twain
  38. 38. theferret.scot/category/fact-check

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