This page explains how we select and research claims, and how we draft, edit, and publish our fact checks and explainer articles. It also outlines our corrections policy.
We ask ourselves two crucial questions before selecting a claim to evaluate:
- Is this important?
- Is it fact checkable?
When FactCheckNI researches claims, we prefer well-defined claims and publicly available sources of information and data. Sometimes we uncover information through private correspondence and/or Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. On occasion, we may also include underlying data/information that is not in the public domain, in order to better explain an issue.
In order for FactCheckNI to research a claim, the claim must be:
- a statement made in public, which can be attributed to a specific person (not limited to politicians and campaigners) or organisation (perhaps a press release or a report)
- an assertion or allegation that can be validated or refuted (to a degree)
- based on past or present actions (but not speculative about the future)
We research the claim, but also aim to provide information about the context surrounding it. We believe this is an essential part of our work.
As well as publishing fact checks, we also produce explainer articles. These articles are an effort to walk readers through more complex claims and topics that are educational and informative, but cannot so easily be reduced to the simple indication of accuracy or inaccuracy in our verdict system. Sometimes we will investigate a topic that is in the news, to provide additional context to eliminate confusion rather than responding to an individual explicit claim.
We may not check every claim suggested to us, but we promise to read everything that is submitted. It helps if you provide as much information as possible, such as date, source, and any particular reason why you’re skeptical about the claim.
Where possible, we will usually attempt to contact the person/organisation who made the claim, to verify the accuracy and context of the statement of the claim. We will investigate any sources of information that the claimant provides. We may not be able to contact anonymous claimants, or very high profile people who have made well-reported claims. The lack of a claimant response will not delay publication of a fact check.
In our research, we are aware of the variable standards of quality and accuracy of source material; therefore we will link to reliable statistical information and primary sources, where possible. In all of our published articles, we link to our sources, so readers can follow our investigation and double-check the primary source of information.
We assign individual fact checkers to the task of fact checking the claim/area of interest.
Once drafted, articles are assessed by our Editor.
Articles are then reviewed by another member of the team before publishing. More complex or politically sensitive topics will be forwarded to a third person.
FactCheckNI retains full editorial control over what it fact checks and what it concludes.
Similar to other fact checking organisations, FactCheckNI has a set of ratings we use when assessing claims. We believe this allows readers to gain an insight into a particular issue, quickly. Our ratings are:
- accurate (evidence corroborates; within margin or error)
- accurate with considerations (qualifications)
- unsubstantiated (insufficient information)
- inaccurate with considerations (qualifications)
- inaccurate (evidence does not corroborate; outside margin of error)
- mixture (recognise the differing veracity of sub-claims)
- it’s complicated (where a claim is so open to interpretation that none of our other five ratings properly fit, e.g. where competing narratives place agreed facts in different contexts)
In the rare instance that we check multiple claims in one article, we may assign a rating of ‘mixture’ to recognise the differing veracity of sub-claims.
These fixed categories aim to make our claim verdicts as objective as possible. We believe that it is up to the reader to determine how much weight to apply to any of our article conclusions. Is a misapplied piece of satire better or worse than a state agency misreporting economic data? We have our views. It’s up to you to defend yours.
It’s important to note that we fact check claims for accuracy; we do not question the motivation or intent of the person or organisation making the claim. We label claims as accurate or inaccurate, but attach no such labels (such as ‘liar’) to claimants. Readers are free to follow the evidence and draw their own conclusions, whether or not in agreement with our verdict.
We publish an overall summary of the claim and our verdict at the top of fact check articles. We outline high level observations at the top of explainer articles.
The substantive body of each article details our research and links to source material.
We share our articles through our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), and our content will surface through Google searches and on YouTube (as a result of our fact checks being submitted to the international Claim Review schema). FactCheckNI is also a participant in the Facebook Third Party Fact Checking Programme.
On a quarterly basis — and sometimes more often during election periods — FactCheckNI staff and directors will consider the mix of topics being fact checked, and whether a range of political claims are being addressed. While we strive for breadth and balance, we are aware that particular circumstances (a health pandemic or a particularly combative politician) can understandably skew that sense of balance.
Our process is rigorous and aims to ensure that our published work is as accurate as possible. But we recognise that mistakes can happen. Post-publication of any FactCheckNI article, we welcome receiving further evidence, whether it refutes or validates our conclusion. New evidence will be promptly considered by the editorial team. Where appropriate, we will strive to update an article within 24 hours. We are transparent about updates and signpost this in any amended article (often noting that there has been an update near the start, with a description of the change within the main body of the text or at the end).
When we publish significant amendments or updates to FactCheckNI articles on our website (other than correcting spelling mistakes or rewording a phrase for clarity), we also republish notifications on our social media channels, with a clear labelling of the updated status of the fact checked article if the verdict has changed.