From Pants on Fire to Pinocchio: All the ways that fact-checkers rate claims

Not everyone is going to read an entire fact check online. But more will see a graphic that tells them whether something is true or false.

That’s the assumption behind fact-checking ratings, which are perhaps the most classic format for political fact-checking. Pioneered by (Poynter-owned) PolitiFact with the launch of its Truth-O-Meter in 2007, rating systems offer an easy visual representation for how truthful a claim is while also giving fact-checkers a metric to track how often certain politicians fudge their facts.

But PolitiFact isn’t the only fact-checking project to employ a rating system.

The Washington Post Fact Checker has its famous Pinocchio scale, Animal Político’s El Sabueso uses a bloodhound as its mascot and other fact-checkers worldwide have opted for a meter approach similar to PolitiFact’s. The reason why they’re popular is obvious: Ratings are easy to share on social media, offer readers a quick glimpse at a fact check and are an easy way to brand a fact-checking project. They also allow for gray areas, such as “Half True” or “Mostly False.”

However, ascribing certain ratings to fact checks isn’t without its drawbacks. Some fact-checkers believe the process could alienate readers who see such ratings as a subjective interpretation of the facts. Others worry that using rating scales give fact-checking the appearance that it’s based on social scientific process, while in fact it’s a journalistic exercise.

Nevertheless, rating scales are still popular among fact-checkers new and old. And they come in all different shapes and sizes.

In light of the sixth Global Fact-Checking Summit this week in Cape Town (watch live here), Poynter compiled all the different ways that fact-checkers rate claims. We included each signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles that use visual ratings in their work, excluding projects that a.) only use text-based ratings and b.) whose rating system isn’t dramatically different from the rest.

Have a cool rating format you want to share with us? Email dfunke@poynter.org.