A reader’s guide to fact checks about the Brexit deal

April 5, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking

Fact vs. Fake is a weekly column in which we compare the reach of fact checks vs. hoaxes on Facebook. Read all our analyses here.

“After the last few days, none of us can be sure what the coming weeks will bring in U.K. politics.”

That’s how British fact-checking outlet Full Fact opened a call-to-action article in November. Prime Minister Theresa May had just published her Brexit draft deal more than two years after citizens voted to leave the European Union. No one in the media was sure what was going to happen next.

Five months later, that uncertainty has only grown — and misinformation has filled in the gaps.

Last week, members of Parliament rejected May’s withdrawal agreement on the day that the U.K. was scheduled to leave the EU. In the weeks leading up to the vote, the same kind of partisan falsehoods that surrounded the original referendum again flooded social media.

In the past week, Full Fact has published five fact checks combating this kind of Brexit-related misinformation. Their targets are myriad, ranging from politicians to viral posts on Facebook, with the latter posing the biggest challenge in terms of reach.

In one article published March 29, the day before the draft deal vote in Parliament, Full Fact debunked a Facebook post that made several false claims about the Lisbon Treaty, which amends the constitutional basis for the EU. Another fact check posted Monday debunked a misleading claim about Brexit from the U.K.’s own Brexit department. And no, a water cannon was not deployed at a pro-Brexit march.

Those are just a sampling of the Brexit-related fact checks that Full Fact has published in the past few months. The outlet joined Facebook’s fact-checking project in January, which enables it to decrease the reach of false posts in the News Feed by up to 80 percent. (Disclosure: Being a signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles is a necessary condition for joining the project.)

In short: Full Fact has stayed plenty busy.

Below is a chart with other top fact checks since last Tuesday in order of how many likes, comments and shares they got on Facebook, according to data from BuzzSumo and CrowdTangle. Read more about our methodology here.

Since Parliament rejected May’s Brexit deal, the U.K. now has until April 12 to come up with a new plan. Otherwise, the country will be forced to leave the EU without a deal and risk an exit that could damage its economy.

In the meantime, online hoaxes aren’t likely to stop anytime soon. And, as The Atlantic wrote last week, “even now, Brexit remains impossible to understand.”

So to stay abreast of the latest misinformation, refer to some of Full Fact’s top Brexit-related fact checks and primers below.

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