After we fact check
We can’t fight bad information through fact checking alone.
If a politician or journalist gets it wrong in public, we ask that they correct themselves in public too. We focus on false claims which have the potential to cause the most harm, and where there is the clearest route to change.
Evidence tells us that corrections can be most effective if whoever said the claim corrects it themselves. This helps us to change attitudes and behaviours, encourage a culture of accuracy, and gather evidence about how well the systems meant to stop bad information reaching the public are working.
We take action in four ways:
- Direct contact with claimant, for instance a correction to a newspaper article or asking for the publication of withheld data
- Contacting another actor that can influence the claimant, such as a regulator
- Using public channels to influence the claimant, for instance with press activity
- Longer-term approaches, such as developing policy positions and campaigning for change
Misleading comparisons of deaths from flu and Covid-19
September 2020: We asked various media outlets for corrections to articles with headlines like “Flu killing six times more people than coronavirus”. As we explained in our fact check, this is based on a misunderstanding of an ONS release that reported the number of death certificates that mentioned “influenza and pneumonia” or Covid-19. This isn’t the same as these conditions being the underlying cause of death. The Sun and The Spectator added lines into their stories to clarify this. Given the apparent confusion, we also spoke to the ONS and were pleased that future releases included a clear statement explaining that a mention on a death certificate didn’t mean it was the underlying cause of death.
MPs delete tweets citing inaccurate quote
August 2020: Amid the controversy over the exam results algorithm, there were inaccurate claims on social media that education secretary Gavin Williamson had said: “The danger is that pupils will be overpromoted in jobs that are beyond their competence.” Our automated fact checking tools spotted that two MPs had also shared the comments, and we got in touch to let them know the quote wasn’t accurate. We’re grateful that they quickly deleted the tweets.
Misleading images of ‘Sulphur Dioxide levels’
February 2020: Four newspapers incorrectly claimed that a set of heat maps showed sulphur dioxide levels in the Wuhan regions suggesting that this was related cremations. The maps in question were not satellite images, nor did they show actual levels of sulphur dioxide. We asked the Metro, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun to make significant corrections to their articles. The Metro and Mail changed their articles entirely, focusing on the fact the images had been debunked and using quotes from Full Fact’s interview with a NASA scientist. The Express and The Sun deleted the articles, with the Express issuing a correction note explaining the error.
False economic comparisons about Brexit
October 2019: Following Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal, the Liberal Democrats repeatedly compared economic outcomes of the deal with the financial crash. But analyses found that the economy would be worse off in a Brexit situation compared with no Brexit; not that the economy would be worse off overall. It compares real loss of money over 15 months with loss of potential earnings over 15 years. Layla Moran MP tweeted a video explaining the problem and thanking Full Fact for raising it.
Misleading poll reporting
August 2019: Full Fact secured corrections to misleading reports on a poll of people’s views on Boris Johnson suspending parliament. The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and Metro all changed their wording so it accurately reflected that the figures only referred to people with a view, and not to all respondents. Initially, the Telegraph suggested a correction note to the bottom of the page, but Full Fact successfully pressed for the amendment to be made in the first two paragraphs. The Sun deleted its article.