Table of Contents
'Independent' Fact Checkers
Critiques of the Fact Checker Paradigm
“At their worst, they’re doing opinion journalism under pseudo-scientific banners, something that’s really corrosive to actual journalism, which if it’s any good is about reported fact in the first place” (Ben Smith, Politico, Aug. 17, 2011).
Barbara Joanna Lucas wrote an overview piece for the Capital Research Centre back in 2017, giving the origin story of the fact-checking industry, and of some of the key players.1)
More Recently Sharyl Attkisson has reported on how fact-checking is done: https://www.globalresearch.ca/how-fact-checking-controlled-faked/5769904
At the heart of the world of the fact-checkers lies the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)2), launched in 2015 and hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.3) The IFCN is funded by, among others, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations 4), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 5), Google, the National Endowment for Democracy 6) and the foundation run by Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist 7)8). Another funder is the Omidyar Network 9), the not-for-profit founded by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.
Fact Checking Organizations
Reuters has moved into the fact-checking space, supposedly independent and with no conflicts of interest that may skew their decisions either way. The fact that James Smith, a director of Pfizer, was also President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Thomson Reuters Corporation, a “provider of intelligent information for businesses and professionals”, from 2012 until 2020, massively undermines any independence that Reuters may claim with regard to the controversy over vaccines and vaccine safety.10)
“After months of trying everything else, Twitter announced a partnership with The Associated Press and Reuters to fight misinformation.”11) Reuters is also a member of the Trusted News Initiative. “The Trusted News Initiative partners will continue to work together to ensure legitimate concerns about future vaccinations are heard whilst harmful disinformation myths are stopped in their tracks.”12) — Tim Davie, Director-General, BBC
Other TNI partners include AP, AFP; BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter, The Washington Post.
Facebook have of around 80 “independent” fact-checkers.13)
Politifact, launched in 2007, was acquired by the Poynter Institute in 2018 and states that it is financially self-sustaining, while at the same time stating that Facebook and TikTok each contributed more than 5% of their revenues in 2020 and revealing the “Truth Squad”, a membership campaign “to allow individual donations”.
Matt Shapiro, from the Paradox Project14), does a deep dive here15) into the patterns seen in the way Politifact operate, and the tactics they use to smear and de-platform content that does not fit the narrative they are hired to promote, ultimately giving them a truth rating.
Funding for Politifact
On the same page, however, under 2016 contributions, they admit that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $126,650 “to fact-check claims about global health and development in partnership with Africa Check.” The sum for the same purpose was $70,000 in 2015, that was part of a larger donation of $382,997 to Poynter as a whole. How likely is it that such donations are given without any expectations of content control?
More recently, Newmark's foundation gave Politifact $100,000 specifically to combat Covid-19 misinformation; for similar purposes, Google donated $50,000 and the IFCN $39,319.
US Representative Thomas Massie revealed earlier in 2021 that FactCheck.org, brought in by Facebook to tackle Covid-19 misinformation, also receives funds 18) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 19), which currently owns $1.8 billion in J&J stock. The CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Richard Besser, is a former acting director at the CDC.
This is Russell Brand's take on this blatant conflict of interests.
AAP FactCheck (Trusted. Accurate. Impartial) is the Australian Associated Press, who bought the former Australian Associated Press Pty Ltd Newswire and FactCheck businesses on August 4, 2020. They are an “independent not-for-profit organisation” with “no owners or shareholders. It is constituted by a small group of members who have no ownership rights over the organisation. The organisation is governed by a board of elected directors”. They are quite coy about their funding, though they do state that;
- Seed funding for AAP FactCheck was originally contributed by the Google News Initiative
- Google has since provided funding towards the costs associated with multiple election-specific fact-checking projects
- AAP FactCheck is funded by a targeted allocation from AAP’s general newsroom budget and income earned through Facebook’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program.20)
- AAP FactCheck also received funding from the Australian Conservation Foundation21) towards increased fact-checking of environmental issues during the 2020-21 summer.
AP Fact Check Staff
AP Fact Check has for years been a member of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), a unit of the Poynter Institute dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers worldwide.
AP FACT CHECK TEAM
- The AP Fact Check team includes the staffers listed below. However, fact-checking is deeply integrated into our whole global operation and we rely on the expertise of our journalists on a wide variety of topics to inform our fact-checking work. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see two bylines, or contributor lines, on a fact check. In addition, any staffer may choose to do a fact check in text or visuals with reporting help and guidance from the Fact Check team.
- KAREN MAHABIR is the AP’s Fact Check and Misinformation Editor. She has worked as a reporter, editor and producer for the AP in its Mexico City, Washington and New York offices. Mahabir also served as Managing Editor of News for The Huffington Post for two years and has spent many years working as a reporter and columnist at several newspapers in New York City and New Jersey. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, with a concentration in African, Asian and Caribbean Studies, from the University of Sussex in England. She also has a master’s degree in International Journalism from City University of London.
- ERIC CARVIN is AP’s global news manager for verification, overseeing strategic initiatives related to the debunking of online misinformation, with some involvement in AP’s day-to-day verification and fact-checking work. In his 20+ years at AP, Carvin has occupied a variety of roles in news coordination, digital innovation, social media, journalism standards and verification. He’s a former board member of the Online News Association, where he served as the organization’s first news ethics chair.
- BARBARA WHITAKER is the news editor for AP Verification, managing a team of reporters and editors that knocks down false news circulating online. She is based in New York. During her 30 years in journalism, she’s worked nationally and internationally for publications including The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Newsday and The Dallas Morning News. Whitaker also taught a lifestyle journalism class while editing for the AP on contract in Warsaw, Poland.
- RAFAEL CABRERA is a reporter based in Mexico City. He has worked for BuzzFeed News, Aristegui Noticias, Reforma and Animal Político, among other Mexican media outlets. He has won international and national awards for his investigative work into a conflict of interest case involving the Mexican president. He has published two books with Penguin Random House. He’s also a university professor.
- RAFAEL CABRERA es reportero de verificación en la Ciudad de Mexico. Ha trabajado en BuzzFeed News, Aristegui Noticias, el diario Reforma y Animal Político, entre otros medios mexicanos. Ganó premios nacionales e internacionales por una investigación que documentó un conflicto de interés del presidente mexicano. Ha publicado dos libros con Penguin Random House. Además es profesor universitario.
- BEATRICE DUPUY is a fact check reporter based in New York City. She has worked for Teen Vogue, Newsweek and The Star Tribune in Minneapolis. At the Star Tribune, Dupuy reported on county government and education. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with a minor in French from the University of Florida.
- JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK is a fact check editor and reporter based in Phoenix. She has reported on immigration, border issues and politics for NPR, The World, The Guardian, the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting and public radio audiences across the Southwest. She first worked with the AP as a multimedia intern in Mexico City in 2009. She speaks Spanish and received her Master’s in Journalism from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
- TERRENCE FRASER is a fact check reporter based in New York City. He has worked for VICE Media, The Marshall Project and ProPublica. At VICE, he reported on protests, housing and the environment, and conducted research for the documentary team. Terrence received a B.A. in Politics and African American Studies from Princeton University. He earned his M.A. in Engagement Journalism from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
- DAVID KLEPPER is an election misinformation reporter based in Providence, Rhode Island. He worked for newspapers in South Carolina and Kansas City before joining the AP in 2011. A native of the Chicago suburbs, he earned degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
- ARIJETA LAJKA is a New York-based fact check reporter specializing in online misinformation, disinformation and verification in video. She has a background in international reporting, producing and filming documentaries for BBC News and CBS. Lajka has also covered trending news for VICE News, and previously reported for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Kosovo. She holds a BA in literature and politics from Wagner College in and an MS in journalism from Columbia University, both in New York City.
- MARCOS MARTINEZ CHACON is a news verification reporter based in Mexico City. He has collaborated with national and international media outlets such as the BBC, Univision Noticias, The San Francisco Chronicle, Grupo Reforma, and Aristegui Noticias. At the BBC, he worked from the Miami bureau as a digital journalist for BBC Monitoring, a BBC News division, where he focused on Latin America and collaborated in the production of podcasts around the spread of fake news in Mexico and other countries for BBC Trending. He holds a master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he collaborated in several projects at the Investigative Reporting Program.
- Marcos Martínez Chacón es un periodista de verificación en la Ciudad de México. Ha colaborado con medios nacionales e internacionales como la BBC, Univision Noticias, The San Francisco Chronicle, Grupo Reforma y Aristegui Noticias. En la BBC, desde la oficina de Miami, se desempeñó como periodista digital para BBC Monitoring, una división de BBC News, donde se enfocó en latinoamérica. También colaboró en la producción de podcasts sobre la diseminación de noticias falsas en México y otros países para BBC Trending. Obtuvo una maestría de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de California en Berkeley. En UC Berkeley, colaboró en diversos proyectos en el Programa de Periodismo de Investigación.
- ABRIL MULATO is a fact check editor based in Mexico city. With 12 years of experience in media, she has worked as a reporter, photographer and editor in national and international media outlets such as Reforma, El País, NBC Telemundo, Vanity Fair and GQ. She has also worked with several digital Communications agencies such as Clarus Digital, Zimat Consultores and The conversationalist agency, coordinating and executing social media and content strategies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Journalism School Carlos Septién García.
- ABRIL MULATO es editora de verificación en la Ciudad de México. A lo largo de 12 años ha trabajado como fotógrafa, reportera y editora en medios nacionales e internacionales como Reforma, El país, NBC Telemundo, Vanity Fair y GQ. También ha colaborado con diversas agencias de comunicación digital como Clarus Digital, Zimat Consultores y The conversationalist agency coordinando y ejecutando estrategias de redes sociales y contenido. Es licenciada en periodismo por la Escuela de Periodismo Carlos Septién García.
- BARBARA ORTUTAY is a technology reporter based in San Francisco, California and previously, New York City. She focuses on misinformation, and social media and Big Tech, and how the two intersect and touch every part of life. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in political science, with a minor in LGBT studies, and a MS in journalism from Columbia University. She grew up in Budapest, Hungary.
- AMANDA SEITZ is a fact check reporter based in Chicago who has focused on investigative reporting and government and political coverage. Her work has taken her from Wausau, Wisconsin, where Seitz spent a night in minus-8-degree weather documenting the city’s homeless population, to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she interviewed hundreds of voters ahead of the 2016 election in one of the country’s most crucial swing states.
- ALI SWENSON is a fact check reporter based in Seattle. She has worked as a reporter and editor for the Phoenix New Times and Los Angeles Times, and as a podcast producer for the Center for Public Integrity and other freelance clients. Swenson previously covered breaking news for the AP in New York City, where she investigated accusations against the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
- CAL WOODWARD has been fact-checking public figures for more than 20 years under an AP initiative that took form in the 1996 election, advanced in 2000 and became a key component of our accountability journalism through that decade. A national writer, editor and essayist, he has been writing and coordinating Washington-based fact checks as his primary work since before the 2012 election. In this time, AP’s effort has greatly expanded beyond campaign and top presidential rhetoric to include statements from all manner of public figures. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, Woodward’s fact checks stood as a rare voice calling attention to the unverified rationales for the invasion. In the 2008 campaign, he worked with our health policy reporter to inform voters that Barack Obama’s proposed health overhaul did not substantiate his claims that people would see lower premiums and maintain the right to choose their own doctors. Woodward came to AP from The Canadian Press, where he covered U.S. politics, the United Nations, culture and sports from New York and Washington, after serving as a regional news editor and reporter in Canada.
- HOPE YEN is a national reporter based in Washington, D.C. She regularly contributes fact check stories in tandem with senior writer and editor Calvin Woodward. In her 15 years in Washington, she has reported on the Supreme Court, demographics, veterans affairs and politics. Her methodical count of the Democratic delegates in the 2016 presidential election was cited by Politico as “one of the 16 stories that changed the 2016 race,” confirming before every other news outlet that Hillary Clinton would win her party’s nomination. Yen previously covered business and the courts for the AP in New York City, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa.
We produce fact checks when we are presented with a claim from a newsmaker – in any format – that deserves further explanation or scrutiny. The AP Fact Check team, along with our experts in the field, investigates and reports out that claim to present the facts around it. These claims can come from newsmakers from any news department, and they are fact-checked by our AP experts, with oversight, guidance and reporting help from the AP Fact Check team.
The AP Fact Check team also produces items that debunk misleading or false information and visuals that are gaining significant traction online. This includes collaborative projects with Facebook and Twitter to add factual context to misleading posts on their platforms.
The fact-checking team follows the AP correction policy.
COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS/CLAIMS TO SUBMIT
Want to reach out with a comment or fact-checking suggestion? Do you see something that needs a correction? Email us at FactCheck@ap.org.
You can also file a complaint with the International Fact Checking Network if you feel that AP or any other IFCN member has violated the fact-checkers’ code of principles.
ABOUT THE AP
The AP is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative composed of newspapers and broadcasters. The vast majority of AP’s revenue comes from licensing content to news outlets and other organizations. The AP Fact Check team is funded by AP’s general news budget and has previously received funding from the Knight Foundation. 22)
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) are a tiny pressure group, based in London and Washington, D.C., who appear to wield a great deal of power, out of all proportion to their size.23) They have a history of going after those who spread actual hate online (Isis, racists, anti-Semites and so on), as well as 'climate change deniers', and have now pivoted into closing down “the anti-vaxx industry”.24) Indeed, it was the CCDH who created the original 'Disinformation Dozen' list.25)
The founder, Imran Ahmed, has had letters published in Nature26), and has said that, “I would go beyond calling anti-vaxxers conspiracy theorists to say they are an extremist group that pose a national security risk.”27)
Rachael Riley, a minor TV celebrity and outspoken critic of anti-Semitism in the UK Labour Party, is their Ambassador.28)29) There's no mention of any employees because they don't have any. One of their board members, Damien Collins, is a Conservative MP who writes extensively about online safety30) and was once Chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (DCMS). Under his watch, his department wrote, ““Social media users need online tools to help them distinguish between quality journalism, and stories coming from organisations that have been linked to disinformation or are regarded as being unreliable sources. The social media companies should be required to either develop tools like this for themselves, or work with existing providers, such as Newsguard.”31)
Another is Simon Clark, “a non resident senior fellow for the policy think tank the Center for American Progress (CAP) and an adviser to the Scowcroft Group. He is also the Chairman of Foreign Policy for America (FP4A) […] the first director of Web Services for the global news agency Reuters (called Thomson Reuters since 2008).”32)
As an interesting aside, the afore-mentioned CAP put out a report in July 2020 called 'A Comprehensive COVID-19 Vaccine Plan' that calls on politicians to “Plan a massive vaccination campaign by recruiting medical experts, sports stars, celebrities, and community leaders and partnering with grassroots organizations and medical organizations.”33)
Other CCDH board members are;
- Kirsty McNeill, a member of the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR)34) that is fund by the Gates Foundation, the Open Society Foundation (George Soros), the U.N and the Rockefellers.
- Ayesha Saran, who once worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE.) and is now at Barrow Cadbury Trust (BCT).
- Dr Siobhan McAndrew is an interesting one in that in some articles she's a “social science lecturer at the University of Sheffield”35)36), while in others she's a “senior lecturer in quantitative social science at the University of Bristol”37) though she appears to have left.38) McAndrew was also the principal investigator of the Infodemic research project39) that was led out of the University of Manchester.40)
- Tom Brookes, who was apparently (better citation needed) a spokesman for Microsoft throughout its 2007 antitrust case.41)
The Fact-Checker Defence
In the interest of balance, Facebook recently defended it's fact-checking activities in a court filing. Their response, in essence, was to say that their fact-checks need not be facts as such, but rather just “protected opinion”. In other words, “Facebook wants the ability to allow fact checkers to accuse their users of lying and censor and ban users based on those “fact checks,” but not to have any liability for accusing those users of lying”.
Newsguard: The Forthcoming Uber-Fact Checker?
Newsguard currently has its own Campfire page here. This organisation — by virtue of its deep connections to government and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its rankings of news sites installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools, and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States.
Another bid for the status of uber-fact checker comes in from the US government who, through the Copyright Office, is considering the idea of mandating a content upload filter on the internet.43)
The COVID Tracking Project
As of March 7, 2021 we are no longer collecting new data
We received awards for our work from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Sigma Awards, and the NYU Journalism Online Awards.
Our data was used by two presidential administrations and an array of federal agencies, including the CDC, HHS, and FDA.
Federal lawmakers used our data in at least 11 letters demanding answers on the pandemic response from government leaders and commercial labs.
Our work continues thanks to the generous support of the Beneficus Foundation, Emerson Collective, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Patrick J. McGovern Foundation. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative 45)
People in COVID Tracking Project
Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS - Science Communication Lead at The Pandemic Tracking Collective Rockefeller Foundation biography - She is currently the Science Communication Lead for The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, a researcher with the COVID-19 Dispersed Volunteer Research Network, a research affiliate at Boston Children’s Hospital Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator, and an expert contributor for NBC Bay Area and CNN. Jessica was recently named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine for her work on COVID-19 research and data communication. Between her day jobs and being a full-time mother to two little kids, she also dedicates several hours a week to promoting science literacy and debunking misinformation on social media. 46)
COVID Tracking Project Ties To Rogan-Malone Censorship
'270 doctors’ called out Joe Rogan, but the authors of the letter and the vast majority of its signatories are not medical doctors Only a handful are practicing physicians.47)
The Dossier by Jordan Schachtel Substack “As physicians, we bear the arduous weight of a pandemic that has stretched our medical systems to their limits and only stands to be exacerbated by the anti-vaccination sentiment woven into this and other episodes of Rogan’s podcast.”
Paradoxically, the disseminators of this petition are guilty of the very misinformation label that they’ve attached to Rogan. In fact, neither of the two reported co authors of the letter — Jessica Rivera and Ben Rein — possess medical degrees. Rivera holds a master’s degree and Rein is a PhD academic who researches psychiatry.
The letter denouncing Joe Rogan and pressuring Spotify to censor his speech has all kinds of random signatories. By my count, the letter is signed by over 50 PhD academics, around 60 college professors, 29 nurses, 10 students, 4 medical residents, and even a handful of… science podcasters. 48)
The editor of the British Medical Journal was forced to write to Mark Zuckerberg in December 2021, pointing out a ridiculous, error-prone “fact check” that was done for Facebook. This BMJ article covered the Ventavia whistleblower who raised questions and concerns about data integrity and regulatory oversight at Pfizer’s pivotal Covid-19 vaccine trial.