September 15, 2016

Thirty-five organizations from 27 countries have signed a new code of principles that emphasizes the importance of transparency and a non-partisan approach.

Signatories include Africa Check, Chequeado, El Objetivo on La Sexta,, Full Fact, PolitiFact, Snopes and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

Around the world, the unholy trinity of partisan news outlets, social media echo chambers and fact-challenged candidates has posed significant challenges to fact-checkers.

In addition, organizations are putting “fact check” in the header even if what they are doing is a far cry from fact-checking. In some countries, partisan groups have hijacked the term to wrap their views in a seemingly impartial cloak of respectability. Even well-intentioned but sloppy fact-checking can provoke a “backfire effect.”

For all of these reasons, since the latest fact-checking conference, Poynter has been leading consultations among practitioners to develop a code of principles that would underpin conscientious fact-checking.

Compiling the code required some compromises. Fact-checkers operate in very different political and media contexts. Some of them are part of media outlets, others are civil society organizations or volunteer groups. Finding rules that were relevant to all has meant losing some specificity.

Still, the principles are a first effort to solidify a movement in accountability journalism whose rapid growth sometimes conceals its relative youth.

The principles revolve primarily around transparency: Fact-checkers should publish their methodology, their sources and their funding. The code also stresses the need for fact-checkers to have an open and honest corrections policy: since they’re in the business of correcting others, fact-checkers must take the task of correcting themselves extremely seriously.

The organizations have one year from today to publish a report detailing how they are respecting each of the five principles.

Find the full code and all the signatories here.

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Alexios Mantzarlis joined Poynter to lead the International Fact-Checking Network in September of 2015. In this capacity he writes about and advocates for fact-checking. He…
Alexios Mantzarlis

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