Frequently asked questions
How did you get started?
Full Fact was launched by a cross-party group of trustees led by Michael Samuel in 2010.
They were –
- Michael Samuel, a businessman who built Mayborn plc from a £1.5 million to a £115 million business. He is also Chair of the Anna Freud Centre, a leading international leader in child mental health charity.
- Peter Archer, a Labour Peer, former Solicitor General, former ombudsman of the Mirror Group of newspapers, and founding member of Amnesty International.
- Julia Neuberger, then a Liberal Democrat Peer, a healthcare expert and ethicist Britain's second ever female rabbi.
- John Lloyd, a founding member of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, former Editor of the New Statesman, and a Contributing Editor of the Financial Times.
- Professor Jean Seaton, the official historian of the BBC.
Full Fact was initially funded by two donations: one from Michael Samuel and one from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust's Power and Accountability grant scheme. Michael is a former conservative donor, while the JRCT describes itself as trying to address the "root causes of conflict and injustice".
At around the same time, David Lipsey was setting up Straight Statistics, a campaign established by journalists and statisticians to improve the understanding and use of statistics by government, politicians, companies, advertisers and the mass media, which merged with Full Fact in 2011.
Michael and David are now Chair and Deputy Chair of Full Fact. Michael has given money to the Conservative party and David was a Labour Peer but chose to give up his party affiliation when he became Deputy Chair of Full Fact in 2017.
Full Fact came out of separate conversations almost two years earlier in 2008. Will Moy, now the Director, and friends came up with the idea in the pub. At the time Will worked for a non-party political member of the House of Lords and so was able to pitch it to one member from each party.
Similarly Michael Samuel had been concerned about accuracy in public debate for a number of years, and he and Natasha Ascott had been discussing the same kind of idea.
Will and Michael were introduced by Julia Neuberger and worked together to found Full Fact. Their first task was to bring together a cross-party board of trustees and ensure that Full Fact started on a cross-party basis, which it did 2010.
With advice from the founding trustees and other experienced people on all sides of politics and journalism, Will, Natasha (Michael's daughter) and other volunteers including those friends from the pub worked for almost two years to get it off the ground.
Will became Director in September 2010 and, under the Board of Trustees, has continued to lead Full Fact ever since.
Natasha, who now runs her own business Muddy Puddles, continued to provide financial know-how and strategic advice as a volunteer in the early years until Full Fact was ready to stand on its own feet.
Around the time Full Fact began quite a lot of people were thinking about fact checking in the UK. Channel 4 Factcheck had recently been established; the journalist Peter Oborne's 2005 book the Rise of Political Lying called for a UK fact checking organisation; bad journalism blogging was prominent; and factcheck.co.uk had been registered by someone else.
We think a few early choices have been crucial –
- 20 months of work to assemble a cross-party board, including lots of rejections
- Making sure we had a mix of funding representing different political perspectives from the start
- The mixture of being led by senior people from all sides of politics, journalism, and business, but driven forward by a young team of volunteers
- Working across politics, the media, and public debate so that we can trace how claims spread and work out how best to tackle the harm from misinformation, not just target one group of people
- Believing wholeheartedly that politics and journalism matter and deserve to be done well. Fact checking should be more than just "why is this lying bastard lying to me?"
Above all, we actually do something about misinformation, political nonsense, and bad journalism. We recognised from the start that simply publishing fact checks isn't enough, so we pioneered getting corrections from politicians, journalists, and others who get their fact checks wrong, and using the evidence from our fact checking to identify were misinformation comes from and find ways to help reduce it, from getting corrections columns set up by newspapers to getting government departments to improve the way they handle information.
Since then Full Fact has been made possible by a growing team of exceptional staff supported by thousands of volunteers and donors. There are many people who can feel proud of helping Full Fact to get going.
If you'd like to join us please sign up for a monthly donation. Everyone who does helps us maintain our independence.
How are you funded?
Full Fact is a registered charity. We rely on donations from individuals, charitable trusts, and corporate supporters. We also earn money from running statistical masterclasses, and from our trading company, Full Fact Services. Find out more about what we can offer your company. All donations greater than £5,000 are listed on our website.
You can see our full list of funders on our funding page.
How do you stay neutral?
We have a cross party board of Trustees with the three big political parties represented. They have extensive experience in politics and journalism. As a charity, it’s the law that we aren’t allowed to take political sides.
The Board does not have any control over day-to-day editorial decisions. These are the responsibility of the Director.
We monitor the claims being made and the ones we’re fact checking on a weekly basis, to ensure we maintain balance.
All staff must complete a declaration of personal interests before they start work here. Our staff aren’t allowed to express opinions about political parties or issues. Volunteers are also asked to provide similar declarations.
Who checks your facts?
You do. We link to sources for factual statements so you don’t have to take our word for what we say. You can also find lots of our sources in our Finder tool.
Why should I take your word for anything?
We’d prefer you not to. Anything we put out should have a link to a source so you can make your own mind up about it.
We’re not trying to provide a verdict that everyone should adopt, we’re trying to make sure no one has to settle for either blindly trusting or distrusting what politicians say. Many of the issues we write about aren’t black and white – a lot of our job is showing up the grey areas.
What will you do if you make a mistake?
We correct it. All our pieces are reviewed by more than one fact checker and we work hard to ensure that our work is done to the highest standard. But mistakes can happen.
If something isn’t correct we update it as quickly as possible and add a note to the piece to ensure people know that it has been corrected. We correct things as openly as possible.
If there is anything you don’t think is correct at time of publication, please let us know by contacting us and we will review the piece.
How can I ask you to check a claim?
We cannot promise to check every claim suggested but we do promise to read all suggestions. Please say what impact you think the claim would have if it’s left unchecked.
How do you spend your money/can I see your accounts?
What kind of sources do you use?
We draw on publicly available information, such as statistics or primary research, to check claims. We can’t fact check claims about some topics, like foreign affairs or defence, because the sources are classified or not independently verified.
We link to primary sources for all factual assertions. We prefer to link to the data tables, legal document, or relevant page of a PDF report — rather than a press release or summary of a statistical release. Within that we normally try to link to a specific table rather than a directory – although sometimes the user interface of the source website doesn’t allow that. For parliamentary records, we usually use anchor links to take you straight to the relevant quote.
Our Finder tool empowers you to do independent research round a topic rather than just following links we provide in a fact check. It provides a guide to the key sources of information and a brief description of some of the variables each data source would be able to provide, so readers don’t have to navigate blind.
Occasionally we seek information or advice from external experts –and often we republish our expert partners’ work or commission explainers from them.
Do I have to pay to get your content?
No. All our content is freely available to the public on our website, and on social media.
For copyright and re-publication requests, please contact us.
What does it mean when something is "from our archive"?
From time to time we archive older content that may no longer be relevant or up to date. It's still visible, but there's a notice on it saying "This article is from our archive. It was originally published a few years ago."
For example, often our fact checks rely on statistics that are updated every three months. It's not always worth updating these when there are new statistics, but we want people to know that they may not be the latest numbers.
Why don't you have ratings?
Full Fact was inspired by fact checking organisations in the United States, such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact. These websites sometimes rate the validity of claims or people, such as PolitiFact’s ‘Truth-O-Meter’.
We feel that such ratings, while appealing at a glance, can sometimes be reductive, and not provide you with the information you need to understand the claim as a whole. It is often the case that a claim is not just ‘True’ or ‘False’, it just hasn’t given you the whole picture.
Full Fact has always sought a less combative, more collaborative approach to fact checking. Our mission is to ensure that the public has access to the best possible information, so work with decision-makers and opinion-shapers, as well as fact checking them, to help them to be more accurate and improve the overall quality of public debate.
How can I make a complaint about Full Fact?
The best way is to contact us and it will be dealt with according to our feedback process. If you have difficulty using our contact form, contact us by any other means and if you’re disabled we’ll do our best to make reasonable adjustments. Our phone number is 020 3397 5140. Read our full complaints policy.
What did you do for the EU referendum?
Do you work for facebook?
Yes, we independently fact check Facebook content as part of its third-party fact checking initiative. Read more about our work checking Facebook content.
Do you work for google?
No, we don’t. Recently we were part of the release of the Google News Fact Check label and we have a Google News Lab Fellow. We won prototype funding from the Google Digital News Initiative in 2016. This was an open call for projects to improve the journalism ecosystem.
Do you provide any fact checking tools?
We also produce educational tools for use by students, teachers and the general public. From tips on spotting fake news, videos of our latest talks and what books to read to learn more about data, we aim to provide resources for you to use in daily life to check the claims that matter to you.
What kind of thing do you check?
We fact check claims in public debate (often, but not limited to, those made by politicians and the media) that are of national interest. Our core areas are based on the topics that repeatedly come top of the Ipsos MORI Issues Index, which asks the public: “What would you say is the most important issue facing Britain today?” The most popular answers are consistently: Crime and Immigration, the Law, Europe, Education, Health and Social Care, and the Economy.
We draw on publicly available information, such as statistics or primary research, to asses the validity of claims. For some topics, such as foreign affairs or defence, there is a lack of independent or unclassified sources, so we are unable to fact check the claims. We also stay away from ethical dilemmas, where the facts aren’t really in questions. For scientific topics, such as the enviornment, we don't yet have the in house expertise to do them justice.
We are a registered charity. We would love to widen our remit in future, but we are limited by resources. Help us deliver more facts by making a donation.
How do you fact check?
First we need to understand the claim. We don’t only fact check the evidence used in a claim, but also the underlying assumption. Factually correct information can be used to make a point which is misleading or incorrect, so it’s important to draw out exactly what someone means when they make a statement.
Then we contact the claimant. Unless the claim’s source is self-evident, we try to contact the claimant to ask them about their source, and for any other information we need to understand it.
Then we gather our evidence. We always try and gather a wide range of sources of evidence relating to a claim. You can read more about our sources in the “What kind of sources do you use?” question above.
Sometimes we contact experts. We cover a wide range of topic areas, and we’re not experts on everything. We want to ensure we’re giving readers the most complete picture we can, and sometimes we need guidance in finding or understanding information. In these cases we speak to relevant experts for advice.
Once the evidence is gathered and analysed, we can write the article. We don’t want to tell you what to think, articles are meant to guide you through all the evidence as clearly as possible so you can make up your own mind about a claim. We’ll also explain the wider context around the issue when it’s relevant to do so.
We summarise the claims we’re fact checking, and our corresponding conclusions, at the top of each article.
Review before publishing. Everything we publish on our website is reviewed by another researcher before publication in order to make sure that it is correct, impartial and engaging. If the topic is politically sensitive our Director may also review it.
Then we publish. The article will go up on our website, and will be publicised on our social media platforms. Often we have partnerships with different media outlets, who re-publish some of our fact checks.
It doesn’t stop there. When necessary, we ask for corrections to the record, and if important sources aren’t published we press for them to be.
Which parties do you check?
Before each election we decide what our resources can support – in 2015 we decided to draw the line at the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP. However, we looked at some claims from other parties via leader’ debates live-checking – e.g. SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru.
Why don't you fact check Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland?
We check claims that are of national interest in areas where we have expertise. This means that we don’t comprehensively fact check claims that are specific to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. We would love to in future, but don't currently have the resources to support this.
How do you live fact check?
It won’t always be possible to respond within minutes or seconds, so for some topics we won’t be able to say anything at all. But we have fact checked a wide range of topics in the past and we’ve built Full Fact Finder to help us respond quickly to new claims. We prepare carefully in the run up to political events or programmes, getting to know our way around the relevant sources, and the key claims and arguments.
We also try to work closely with experts in lots of different fields. If you’re an expert and can spare sometimes as little as a few minutes to help us fact check claims in your field, please do get in touch.
Do you do internships?
Full Fact doesn’t currently run an internship programme, as we don’t have the resources to regularly support extra temporary members of the team. We do occasionally take on interns for specific projects - get in touch if you would like to find out more.
Can I volunteer?
We are grateful for the support of the many volunteers who have collectively donated thousands of hours of their time to Full Fact. Volunteers help with basic fact checking, targeted research, and monitoring which claims are being made most regularly in public debate.
We only take on volunteers when we have something useful for them do. Fill in this form if you’re interested in volunteering.
Can I apply for a job?
Current vacancies are listed on our jobs page. That said we are always interested to meet people who can help Full Fact grow. If you think you have skills that we would benefit from, get in touch with your CV.
Do you accept freelancers?
From time to time, we recruit freelancers to help us fact check a particular debate. This is normally when we require someone with specific expertise that we don’t have in-house. All our freelancers are subject to the same neutrality and impartiality checks as full time members of staff, and their work is reviewed by our experienced fact checkers.
Freelance opportunities are advertised on our jobs page.
How can I help?
We rely on your donations to stay independent and expand our work. Our donate page is here.
If you’re an expert in your field and you agree with us that information could be used better in public debate, we’d love to hear from you.
During the 2015 general election, volunteers donated over 4,000 hours of their time to help us run our election centre. If you could spare a few hours a week, get in touch.
Most importantly, check the facts for yourself. You can use our Finder tool to check facts for yourself, and let us know if you see an unsubstantiated or inaccurate claim doing the rounds - we’ll do our best to get it corrected.