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Fact-checking is the act of checking factual assertions in non-fictional text in order to determine the veracity and correctness of the factual statements in the text. This may be done either before (ante hoc) or after (post hoc) the text has been published or otherwise disseminated.[1]

Ante hoc fact-checking (fact-checking before dissemination) aims to remove errors and allow text to proceed to dissemination (or to rejection if it fails confirmations or other criteria). Post hoc fact-checking is most often followed by a written report of inaccuracies, sometimes with a visual metric from the checking organization (e.g., Pinocchios from The Washington Post Fact Checker, or TRUTH-O-METER ratings from PolitiFact). Several organizations are devoted to post hoc fact-checking, such as and PolitiFact.

Research on the impact of fact-checking is relatively recent but the existing research suggests that fact-checking does indeed correct misperceptions among citizens, as well as discourage politicians from spreading misinformation.


Post hoc fact-checkingEdit

Consistency across fact-checkersEdit

One study finds that fact-checkers PolitiFact,, and Washington Post's Fact Checker overwhelmingly agree on their evaluations of claims.[2][3]

However, a study by Morgan Marietta, David C. Barker and Todd Bowser found "substantial differences in the questions asked and the answers offered." They concluded that this limited the "usefulness of fact-checking for citizens trying to decide which version of disputed realities to believe."[4]

A paper by Chloe Lim, Ph.D. student at Stanford University, finds little overlap in the statements that fact-checkers check. Out of 1065 fact-checks by PolitiFact and 240 fact-checks by The Washington Post's Fact-Checker, there were only 70 statements that both fact-checkers checked. The study found that the fact-checkers gave consistent ratings for 56 out of 70 statements, which means that one out every five times, the two fact-checkers disagree on the accuracy of statements.[5]


Studies of post hoc fact-checking have made clear that such efforts often result in changes in the behavior, in general, of both the speaker (making them more careful in their pronouncements) and of the listener or reader (making them more discerning with regard to the factual accuracy of content); observations include the propensities of audiences to be completely unswayed by corrections to errors regarding the most divisive subjects, or the tendency to be more greatly persuaded by corrections of negative reporting (e.g., "attack ads"), and to see minds changed only when the individual in error was someone reasonably like-minded to begin with.[6]

Correcting misperceptionsEdit

A 2015 study found evidence a "backfire effect" (correcting false information may make partisan individuals cling more strongly to their views): "Corrective information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website significantly reduced belief in the myth that the flu vaccine can give you the flu as well as concerns about its safety. However, the correction also significantly reduced intent to vaccinate among respondents with high levels of concern about vaccine side effects--a response that was not observed among those with low levels of concern."[7] A 2017 study attempted to replicate the findings of the 2015 study but failed to do so.[8]

A 2016 study found little evidence for the "backfire effect": "By and large, citizens heed factual information, even when such information challenges their partisan and ideological commitments."[9] A study of Donald Trump supporters during the 2016 race similarly found little evidence for the backfire effect: "When respondents read a news article about Mr. Trump's speech that included F.B.I. statistics indicating that crime had "fallen dramatically and consistently over time," their misperceptions about crime declined compared with those who saw a version of the article that omitted corrective information (though misperceptions persisted among a sizable minority)."[10][11] A 2018 study found no evidence of a backfire effect.[12]

Studies have shown that fact-checking can affect citizens' belief in the accuracy of claims made in political advertisement.[13] A paper by a group of Paris School of Economics and Sciences Po economists found that falsehoods by Marine Le Pen during the 2017 French presidential election campaign (i) successfully persuaded voters, (ii) lost their persuasiveness when fact-checked, and (iii) did not reduce voters' political support for Le Pen when her claims were fact-checked.[14] A 2017 study in the Journal of Politics found that "individuals consistently update political beliefs in the appropriate direction, even on facts that have clear implications for political party reputations, though they do so cautiously and with some bias... Interestingly, those who identify with one of the political parties are no more biased or cautious than pure independents in their learning, conditional on initial beliefs."[15]

A study by Yale University cognitive scientists Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand found that Facebook tags of fake articles "did significantly reduce their perceived accuracy relative to a control without tags, but only modestly".[16] A Dartmouth study led by Brendan Nyhan found that Facebook tags had a greater impact than the Yale study found.[17] A "disputed" tag on a false headline reduced the number of respondents who considered the headline accurate from 29% to 19%, whereas a "rated false" tag pushed the number down to 16%.[17] The Yale study found evidence of a backfire effect among Trump supporters younger than 26 years whereby the presence of both untagged and tagged fake articles made the untagged fake articles appear more accurate.[16] In response to research which questioned the effectiveness of the Facebook "disputed" tags, Facebook decided to drop the tags in December 2017 and would instead put articles which fact-checked a fake news story next to the fake news story link whenever it is shared on Facebook.[18]

Based on the findings of a 2017 study in the journal Psychological Science, the most effective ways to reduce misinformation through corrections is by:[19]

  • limiting detailed descriptions of / or arguments in favor of the misinformation;
  • walking through the reasons why a piece of misinformation is false rather than just labelling it false;
  • presenting new and credible information which allows readers to update their knowledge of events and understand why they developed an inaccurate understanding in the first place;
  • using video, as videos appear to be more effective than text at increasing attention and reducing confusion, making videos more effective at correcting misperception than text.

A forthcoming study in the Journal of Experimental Political Science found "strong evidence that citizens are willing to accept corrections to fake news, regardless of their ideology and the content of the fake stories."[20]

A paper by Andrew Guess (of Princeton University), Brendan Nyhan (Dartmouth College) and Jason Reifler (University of Exeter) found that consumers of fake news tended to have less favorable views of fact-checking, in particular Trump supporters.[21] The paper found that fake news consumers rarely encountered fact-checks: "only about half of the Americans who visited a fake news website during the study period also saw any fact-check from one of the dedicated fact-checking website (14.0%)."[21]

A 2018 study found that Republicans were more likely to correct their false information on voter fraud if the correction came from Breitbart News rather than a non-partisan neutral source such as PolitiFact.[22]

Political discourseEdit

A 2015 experimental study found that fact-checking can encourage politicians to not spread misinformation. The study found that it might help improve political discourse by increasing the reputational costs or risks of spreading misinformation for political elites. The researchers sent, "a series of letters about the risks to their reputation and electoral security if they were caught making questionable statements. The legislators who were sent these letters were substantially less likely to receive a negative fact-checking rating or to have their accuracy questioned publicly, suggesting that fact-checking can reduce inaccuracy when it poses a salient threat."[23]

Political preferencesEdit

One experimental study found that fact-checking during debates affected viewers' assessment of the candidates' debate performance and "greater willingness to vote for a candidate when the fact-check indicates that the candidate is being honest."[24]

A study of Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign found that while fact-checks of false claims made by Trump reduced his supporters' belief in the false claims in question, the corrections did not alter their attitudes towards Trump.[25]

Controversies and criticismEdit

Political fact-checking is sometimes criticized as being opinion journalism.[26][27] In September 2016, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that "just 29% of all Likely U.S. Voters trust media fact-checking of candidates' comments. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe instead that news organizations skew the facts to help candidates they support."[28][29]

Organizations and individualsEdit

The Reporters' Lab at Duke University maintains a database of fact-checking organizations that is managed by Mark Stencel and Bill Adair. The database tracks more than 100 non-partisan organizations around the world. The Lab's inclusion criteria is based on whether the organization

  • examines all parties and sides;
  • examines discrete claims and reaches conclusions;
  • tracks political promises;
  • is transparent about sources and methods;
  • discloses funding/affiliations;
  • and whether its primary mission is news and information.[30]


  • Africa Check:[31] Africa's first independent fact-checking organisation with offices in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and the UK checking claims made by public figures and the media in Africa.


  • altnews is a fact-checking website.
  • Boom is a fact-checking digital journalism website.[32][33][34]
  • SMHoaxSlayer is a broad spectrum fact-checking website with verifying social media hoaxes and scams circulating in India.[35][32][33][34]
  • Factly FACTLY is one of the well known Data Journalism/Public Information portals in India. Each news story on FACTLY is backed by factual evidence/data from official sources that is either available in the public domain or that is collated/gathered/collected using tools such as the Right to Information (RTI).


  • Gomaneh an online Persian magazine devoted to the investigation of rumours and hearsay.[36]


  • GoHoo: Launched by a nonprofit association Watchdog for Accuracy in News-reporting, Japan (WANJ or 一般社団法人 日本報道検証機構) on November 16, 2014. Crowd-funded approx. 1.6 million yen through Ready For.[37] Awarded Social Business Grand Prize 2012 Summer.[38]
  • Japan Center of Education for Journalists (JCEJ): Fosters journalists and fact-checkers by referring to a Journalist's Guide to Social Sources published by First Draft News, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center. JCEJ itself also debunks falsehoods.[39]


  • BBC Reality Check[40]
  • Full Fact:[41] An independent fact-checking organisation based in the UK which aims to "promote accuracy in public debate", launched in 2009.
  • The FactCheck blog:[42] A fact-checking blog run by the Channel 4 News organization in the UK.
  • Les Décodeurs:[43] French fact-checking blog run by Le Monde.
  • Pagella Politica:[44] an Italian fact-checking website.
  •[45] a Greek fact-checking website launced in 2013. Debunks hoaxes, urban legends, fake news, internet scams and other stories of questionable origin.
  •[46] an independent Greek fact-checking website launced in February 2017 specializing in pseudoscience and medical frauds.[47] Affiliated to Ellinika Hoaxes.
  •[48] an Italian fact-checking website
  • Ferret Fact Service:[49] Scotland's first fact-checker launched in April 2017[50] after a grant from the Google Digital News Initiative.[51]
  • Mimikama:[52] Austrian fact-checking website which mainly focuses on Facebook hoaxes in the German and Dutch language area.
  •[53] First dedicated fact-checking web in Spain, launched in 2017, with the purpose of debunking fake news. Accredited by Google as fact-checking organization.

Former Soviet Union countriesEdit

  • FactCheck Georgia:[54] a project of the Tbilisi-based think-tank Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS), launched in 2013.[55]
  • VoxCheck:[56] unveiled by VoxUkraine, an online economics and policy project, in 2015.[55]
  • FactCheck Ukraine: launched by the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Team of Reformers in 2016.[55]
  •[57] launched by the Kyiv Mohyla Journalism School in 2014.

Latin AmericaEdit

United StatesEdit

Ante hoc fact-checkingEdit

Among the benefits of printing only checked copy is that it averts serious, sometimes costly, problems, e.g. lawsuits and discreditation. Fact-checkers are primarily useful in catching accidental mistakes; they are not guaranteed safeguards against those who wish to commit journalistic frauds

Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, has observed that: "modern students use their wireless worlds to augment skepticism and to reject dogma." He says this has positive implications for values development:

"Fact-checking can become a learned skill, and technology can be harnessed in a way that makes it second nature… By finding opportunities to integrate technology into learning, students will automatically sense the beautiful blending of… their cyber… [and non-virtual worlds]. Instead of two spheres coexisting uneasily and warily orbiting one another, there is a valuable experience of synthesis…".[96]

Checking original reportageEdit

Stephen Glass began his journalism career as a fact-checker. He went on to invent fictitious stories, which he submitted as reportage, and which fact-checkers at The New Republic (and other weeklies for which he worked) never flagged. Michael Kelly, who edited some of Glass's concocted stories, blamed himself, rather than the fact-checkers, saying: "Any fact-checking system is built on trust ... If a reporter is willing to fake notes, it defeats the system. Anyway, the real vetting system is not fact-checking but the editor." [97]

Books on professional fact-checkingEdit

  • Sarah Harrison Smith spent some time and also headed the fact-checking department for The New York Times. She is the author of the book, The Fact Checker's Bible.
  • Jim Fingal worked for several years as a fact-checker at The Believer and McSweeney's and is co-author with John D'Agata of The Lifespan of a Fact which is an inside look at the struggle between fact-checker (Fingal) and author (D'Agata) over an essay that pushed the limits of the acceptable "artistic license" for a non-fiction work.

Alumni of the roleEdit

The following is a list of individuals for whom it has been reported, reliably, that they have played such a fact-checking role at some point in their careers, often as a stepping point to other journalistic endeavors, or to an independent writing career:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fellmeth, Aaron X.; Horwitz, Maurice (2009). "Ante hoc". Ante hoc – Oxford Reference. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195369380.001.0001. ISBN 9780195369380. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015.
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  106. ^ "Sean Wilsey – About Sean Wilsey – Penguin Group". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.[verification needed]

Further readingEdit

  • The Poynter Institute's summary of research on fact-checking.
  • Silverman, Craig (23 October 2007). Regret The Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute The Press And Imperil Free Speech. Penguin Canada. ISBN 9780143186991.
  • Amazeen, Michelle (2015) "Monkey Cage: Sometimes political fact-checking works. Sometimes it doesn't. Here's what can make the difference.," The Washington Post (online), 3 June 2015, see,[1] accessed 27 July 2015.
  • Davis, Katy (2012) "Study: Fact-checkers disagree on who lies most," The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), George Mason University (online, press release), 22 October 2012 see,[2]
  • Lewis-Kraus, Gideon (2012) "RIFF: The fact-checker versus the fabulist," The New York Times Magazine (online), 21 February 2012 (print edition, 26 February 2012, p. MM45, title, "I Have Taken Some Liberties"), see,[3]
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2010) "The Medium: What 'fact-checking' means online," The New York Times Magazine (online), 20 August 2010 (print edition, 22 August 2010, p. MM14). Accessed 27 July 2015.
  • Silverman, Craig (2010) "Top fact checkers and news accuracy experts gather in Germany," Regret the Error (online), 4 September 2010, see,[4] accessed 28 July 2015. Cited by Tobias Reitz & Kersten Alexander Riechers (2011) Quo vadis Qualitätssicherung? Corrigo, Konzeption eines Crowdsourced Media Accountability Services," p. 151, Fachbereich Media, 31 May 2011 (Hochschule Darmstadt, University of Applied Sciences), see,[5] accessed 28 July 2015.
  • Bergstrom, Carl T. and Jevin West "Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World." Online Lecture INFO 198 / BIOL 106B, 2017, University of Washington.[6][7]
  • Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann (1995). "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection". The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Random House. pp. 201–218.[8][9]
  • Adler, Mortimer J.; Doren, Charles Van (1972) [1940]. "Agreeing or Disagreeing with an Author". How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Revised ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 154–167. After he has said 'I understand but I disagree,' he can make the following remarks to the author: (1) 'You are uninformed'; (2) 'You are misinformed'; (3) You are illogical-your reasoning is not cogent'; (4) 'Your analysis is incomplete.' |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  • "Rapidly expanding fact-checking movement faces growing pains", Washington Post, 25 June 2018

External linksEdit

  • ^ Amazeen, Michelle (14 December 2012). "Sometimes political fact-checking works. Sometimes it doesn't. Here's what can make the difference". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  • ^ "Study: Fact-Checkers Disagree on Who Lies Most". Archived from the original on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Accessed 28 July 2015.
  • ^ Lewis-Kraus, Gideon (21 February 2012). "The Fact-Checker Versus the Fabulist". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2015. (Subscription required (help)).
  • ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  • ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  • ^ Bergstrom, Carl; West, Jevin (2017). "Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World". University of Washington. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  • ^ "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data". YouTube. UW iSchool. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  • ^ Jones, Josh (11 April 2016). "Carl Sagan Presents His "Baloney Detection Kit": 8 Tools for Skeptical Thinking". Open Culture: the best free cultural & educational media on the web. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  • ^ Sagan, Carl. "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection" (PDF). Free University of Berlin. Retrieved 17 February 2018.