CILIP Conference Day 2 Keynote

Joseph O'Leary
Fact Checking the Election

Full Fact is an independent fact checking organisation.

What Full Fact Do

We shouldn’t trust everything we hear, but nor should we mistrust it. Without the means to easily check everything we hear we are forced into a choice between blind faith and blind cynicism. Full Fact exists to make it easier to base political argument in substantiated not unsubstantiated claims.

Given the volume of claims it is hard to even make sense of them never mind know which to trust.

“Our factchecks look at whether it’s reasonable for people to trust the claims of politicians and journalists based on the evidence that’s available to us. We link to all our sources so that people can judge issues for themselves. We publish all our findings, whether a claim turns out to be accurate or not.” - What We Do

Full Fact provides a public service and also brings together a network of experts to help expertise have a coherent, organised voice during election periods. They helped raise the quality of Full Fact output and Full Fact helped their opinion become more prominent.

Full Fact in the 2015 Election

Proved you can create a system that takes claims in, analyses them and publishes an assessment. Hope this can be applied by others to do the same again.

Inspired to provide the service by Norway. In Norway this service is provided by the statistical agency. Aim is to make it easier for people to stay informed and for politicians and business communities to make better decisions.

Full Fact ran an election centre running 24/7 analysing and rebutting claims. Culminated in an election report that provided commentary and summary.

Experts (analysis team), communication and monitoring are the three aspects that make this systematic. Enables expertise to be vocal but also relevant. You need direct relevance otherwise media will not take any interest in what you have done.

These three teams databased thousands of claims, fed into editorial decisions and published briefings via media networks. Made an impact e.g. influenced Labour to make the argument about job insecurity without unsubstantiated claims on zero hours contracts.

Lessons

Fact Checking can be Systematic and Impartial

Learnt that you can fact check an election impartially and on a massive scale. Paranoid about the quality of their output. Know that analysis will be scrutinised by many. If make a mistake corrected themselves publicly and openly and forced corrections from others.

Expertise Matters

Learnt that expertise really matters and there is a lot of untapped expertise in this country that needs to be networked and co-ordinated more effectively.

Mistakes Happen

Learnt that cock up is as much an explanation for why people get things wrong as conspiracy.

Preparation is Essential

Learnt about the value of preparation. Started 18 months in advance.

Towards 2020

Is there anything we can do to help? Full Fact consider this a two election project and hope that more experts will be involved in analysing, monitoring and communicating next time.

Q&A

Note the importance of labels not just statistics. Imprecise semantics and confusion around definitions can be as misleading as statistics.

Question on funding and neutrality. Receive charity foundation funding. Have a cross party board of trustees. No editorial impact but ensure impartiality. Half of Full Fact content is reviewed independently to check that it conforms to governance structures. Commercial services to improve communication of expertise not expected to threaten neutrality.

Finder service is like a ‘curated Google’ that directs people to official sources of data about a topic.

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