Fact-Checking On the Rise Worldwide

Fact-checking sites have multiplied in the past year, spreading to six continents 

The number of fact-checking websites around the world has grown by 45 percent since last year, with 64 such sites now active on six continents, says a new Duke University survey.

The sites are most prevalent in Europe and North America, says the 2015 Fact-Checking Census by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Europe has 27 fact-checking sites and North America has 22. Some of the newest sites are found in Uruguay, Turkey and South Korea.


bill adair
Bill Adair, who now teaches at Duke, founded the fact-checking site PolitiFact

The sites rate the accuracy of statements by politicians and candidates. Most summarize their findings with a true to false rating scale, with creative variations. The scale used by European site FactCheckEU includes “Rather Daft” and “Insane Whopper,” while in Canada, politicians’ statements are rated on the Baloney Meter.

Some sites only operate during elections. When those sites are included, the total active in the past few years was 89, up from 59 counted last year.

“The rapid growth shows fact-checking is becoming an important new trend in journalism,” said Bill Adair, the director of the Reporters’ Lab and the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy.

“In the digital age, journalists have realized they need to do more than just pass along political talking points. They need to tell people what’s true and what’s not,” said Adair, creator of PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site of the Tampa Bay Times.

News organizations such as newspapers and television networks operate 56 of the 89 sites, while others are run by nonprofit organizations. Almost one-third of the sites (29 of the 89) track the campaign promises of elected officials. Some, such as the Rouhani Meter for Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, only track campaign promises. Others, such as PolitiFact, do promise-tracking in addition to fact-checking.

Throughout the world, the key challenge for fact-checkers is to find a sustainable business model, Adair said. Fact-checking websites typically do not draw enough traffic to be commercially successful, and must get support from large news organizations and foundations.

A database and map of fact-checking sites can found on the Duke Reporters’ Lab website: http://reporterslab.org/fact-checking/. The Duke Reporters’ Lab, part of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, explores fact-checking and other new forms of journalism.