Yesterday Gript reported that the International Fact-Checking Network, the IFCN, had told Gript that some of the fact-checking material published by the Journal.ie did not meet their requirements to be considered fact-checking but was instead “non-fact-checking content.” You can read more on that story HERE.
The IFCN accredits the Journal as a fact-checker and their accreditation was required for the Journal to become recognised as a Facebook fact-checker.
Today we can report that we have reviewed every article published by the Journal in the “FactCheck” section of their website, since January the 1st of this year, to see if it meets the requirements laid out to us by the IFCN for recognition as fact-checking material. Only 33% of the material in the section did. That is not to say that 33% of Journal fact-checks are correct, it is to say that only 33% of their fact-checking material meets the basic criteria to be recognised as fact-checking at all, at least according to the Journal’s accrediting body.
This is of importance as material which the IFCN does not deem to be fact-checking content is not required to abide by the principles enshrined in the IFCN’s Code of Principles, which regulates the conduct of fact-checkers to ensure fairness and consistency. We know this as, when Gript raised questions about a potential breach of those principles by the Journal in a recent fact-check, the Chief Executive of the IFCN told us the material in question simply wasn’t a fact-check and therefore “I don’t see any problem here.”
Within their “FactCheck” section the Journal does try and draw a distinction between various types of fact-checking material – the Journal publishes material in their fact-check section under several different titles, and it is possible that they will seek to argue that only some of the material within the “FactCheck” section actually constitutes fact-checking.
However, the Journal, in its application to the IFCN said that the archive of fact-checking work done by the Journal can be found at a URL which displays all this material together, indicating it believes all of the material constitute fact-checking material. Nowhere in their application to the IFCN do they argue that only some of the material in the “FactCheck” section should be bound by the Code of Principles of the IFCN.
Of the material in the Journal’s “FactCheck” section much of it, but not all of it, contain graphics saying that the material is a fact-check, even those not headlined as a “FactCheck”, and all of those we reviewed include a note at the bottom stating that the Journal is a signatory of the IFCN Code of Principle and explaining how the code works and the methodology the Journal is meant to use when fact-checking.
Not all material headlined as a “FactCheck” gives verdicts, and some material headlined as a “FactFind” does give verdicts, blurring the distinction even more. Material headlined as a “FactCheck” was occasionally also referred to as a “FactFind”, and all of the material we reviewed, regardless of headline, was posted under a note saying “#factcheck.”
The result of this, in our opinion, is that a reasonable member of the public, clicking on to the “FactCheck” section of the Journal’s website, would be unable the discern any difference between the material presented and would be of the view that everything they are viewing is fact-checking content and therefore comes under the purview of the IFCN Code of Principles. They would be right only occasionally.
Thus we must rate the idea that the material within the Journal’s “FactCheck” section is fact-checking content, as defined by the IFCN, as VERDICT: MOSTLY UNTRUE / MISLEADING.