General Election 2017, factchecked
Boy, were we busy during this election. Here's the summary of what our team, backed by 1,920 donors achieved together:
- Overall, we published 100 new factchecks and explainers in the 8 weeks after the snap election announcement, including factchecking the viral stories like the NHS video, "Garden Tax", Naylor review, "Dementia Tax" and lots of infographics.
- We factchecked the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, UKIP and Green manifesto launches.
- We live factchecked seven different multi-party leader debates, including three with ITV News, the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show, and BBC Wales.
- We made 18 factual videos which together racked up 2 million views.
- We were in or on: ITV News, BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, Reuters TV, Sky News, BBC General News Service, the Telegraph, the i, Metro Online, the London Evening Standard, Press Association, Mail Online, the Guardian, the Times, Vice, Wired, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Mashable UK, Dazed, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed and many others.
- On Facebook 18.5 million people saw our factchecks, and 7.8 million people engaged with them
- On Twitter 9.8 million people saw our factchecks.
- We held two Facebook Live Q&A sessions with the country's leading experts to answer your questions on Brexit, Immigration, Health and the Economy.
- With First Draft, we brought verification and factchecking together in the same office for the first time!
- We partnered with expert organisations including the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Nuffield Trust, the National Foundation for Educational Research, and the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.
- We raised £100,263 from 1920 supporters through our crowdfunding campaign.
- We grew our team of 11 to 30 for the election, including hosting statisticians and specialist researchers as secondees who had deep subject knowledge in each area.
- We built automated factchecking tools that were used live during the election.
All this work was supported by 1920 donors who gave to our crowdfunding campaign, and by the Nuffield Foundation who awarded Full Fact a grant to ensure #GE2017 “is informed by independent and rigorous evidence”.
Facts, factchecking and explainers
We gave voters the facts... minus the spin. We cleared up unsubstantiated claims about Labour’s so-called “Garden Tax” and explained what the Conservative’s “Dementia Tax” was really all about. We factchecked viral videos on the NHS, and graphics that were making the rounds.
But our bread and butter was factchecking the claims of the parties and politicians themselves. In total we published around 100 factchecks since 18 April, when the election was announced.
The parties’ manifesto launches were big events during the campaign, and we were on hand to factcheck them. We looked at the speeches by the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the SNP and the Green party to bring you nearly 8,000 words of factchecking across 38 articles.
This election, we factchecked national parties that had over 1% of the vote share at the last general election. Read the round ups again here:
The Big Stories
We looked at the claims being made by the people campaigning for your vote and got to the bottom of them. From whether or not the Labour party were planning to raise the basic rate of income tax to 25p (answer: they’re not) to whether the UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year (it was, along with Germany).
We took on the claims that made a splash, finding out if £300 million could pay for 10,000 police officers (probably not), if there was going to be a cap on social care costs (it will be in a consultation after the election) and if nurses were really having to use foodbanks (there are reports to suggest so, but we don’t have the data to know how many).
Some were the kind of claims that crop up all the time, like when the A&E target was last hit in English hospitals. Others were less familiar: did UK foreign aid money pay for an airport in St Helena? Had the SNP ever been fined for election spending mistakes before?
We were more responsive than ever to viral content. We factchecked videos on the state of the NHS and the Naylor Review. We tackled a viral graphic on the state of the economy over the last three days of the campaign—15,000 people shared our response in a few hours.
We interacted with a growing community who read our online factchecks. Has the government changed the way poverty is measured? Are the employment figures driven by a growth in insecure, precarious work? People asked us and we answered.
Some of our most popular content isn’t factchecking a claim at all. Explainer articles, where we apply our rigour and neutrality to giving a simple account of a complex situation, seem to be in demand.
As ever with Full Fact, the exact count depends on your definition, but a conservative estimate for the number of campaign explainers we published is 18. These ranged from “The powers of the intelligence services” to “What is the NHS?”
We partnered up with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Nuffield Trust, the National Foundation for Educational Research, and the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.
With them we were able to tackle hugely important issues like ‘Is the NHS in crisis?’, 'What’s happening to income inequality?', and what people mean when they say “the rich”. With their help we were able to give authoritative answers in clear and simple formats.
We also hosted two Facebook Live Q&A sessions to answer your questions (more on that later).
When there’s a big political debate on TV, Full Fact is on the case—we research claims as they are made and tweet out what we find within seconds or minutes.
This election we live factchecked seven TV debates (two over one bank holiday weekend).
We covered the first five-party TV debate live from the ITV News studio, and later the 7-way BBC debate. Our skilled researchers were even more tested than ever searching for reliable regional facts during the BBC Wales debate and our Director appeared live in the Victoria Derbyshire Big Debate too.
Here’s what people said about our live factchecking:
@FullFact doing an excellent job laying it all out there, as usual. Thank you for maintaining clarity between lip service and soundbites!— lunalovesroman (@lunalovesroman) May 29, 2017
anyone who isn't following @FullFact doesn't know the half of it— Ergo (@SniersMoregut) May 30, 2017
Reaching more people than ever
We tried a lot of new things on Twitter. A lot of this was experimenting with how to make facts as visual as possible. One method we tried was Claim and Conclusion Cards, which we got a lot of strong feedback on - especially one in particular.
Another was our fact graphics and GIFs, a way of condensing a factcheck into a single image.
We also experimented with 'Moments' - a Twitter tool for collecting a group of tweets together. We used Moments to collect together our live factchecks. Our BBC Question Time Leaders Special Moment was read by over 25,000 people within a few hours of publication.
Helped by these new ways of communicating, our tweets were seen over 9 million times. During the same period for the EU Referendum last year, that number was 6.4 million.
Up until the polls opened at 7am we were posting our factchecks and explainers on Facebook in different formats — videos, pictures and gifs — trying different ways of catching people's attention to get the facts across.
The day before the election we were factchecking and agonising over how to present our factcheck of an inaccurate viral infographic that compared Labour and Conservative budget spending. We decided to press on and at 7pm posted the final products — a short video and the infographic below.
It worked. We reached 1.6 million people with no advertising and that post has had over 12,000 shares so far.
Other popular posts were our factchecks of the Garden Tax (960 shares) and the Naylor Review (1,500 shares), which many readers had asked us to look into.
We ran two Facebook Live Q&As with the Press Association’s UK Politics page. We had leading experts answer your questions on Brexit, immigration, economy and health.
First we did Brexit, with the Institute for Government and UK in a Changing Europe, then immigration with Migration Observatory. The second one was hosted by at Facebook’s HQ and we covered the economy with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and health with the Nuffield Trust.
We racked up around 80,000 views and managed to answer a huge range of questions:
- What are world trade organisation rules and what will they change?
- What is an Australian points based system and what would the effect be in the UK?
- What is Land Value Tax and how will it affect people?
- Are we training enough doctors and nurses?
Watch them again on our Facebook page.
Videos helped us to reach 3 million people during the EU referendum, so we were keen to produce more for this snap election. We had a mix of styles:
30 second manifesto factcheck videos
Simple factchecking videos including one on that nonsensical viral budget spending infographic which 66,403 people have watched to the end so far, and one debunking a viral image making false claims about people who’d died in the Manchester attack
Longer form explanatory videos including ‘Is the NHS in crisis’ with Nuffield Trust; ‘50 years of income inequality’ with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘The election and the net migration target’ with Migration Observatory, and ‘What is hard Brexit?’.
Over 2 million people saw our 18 election videos (although we should say, in the spirit of transparency, that only 100,000 people watched to the end).
Growing our team
We are incredibly grateful to the people who joined our team in the weeks running up to the election. A snap election is particularly difficult because it means you need to grow, fast.
Luckily, we've had the benefit of the Scottish Independence Referendum, the 2015 General Election and The EU referendum, so we have an incredible network of previous staff, freelancers and volunteers who have worked with us before, and appreciate the nuances of neutrality and the standards we work to.
We'd like to especially thank Susan Blackburn, Michael Skelly, Tom Shane, Ben Matthews, Katie Craig, Faith Waddell, Ben Hayes, Emma Nash, Philip Gorman, Elena Ares, Cassie Barton, Jennifer Brown, Gabrielle Garton Grimwood, Maria Lalic, Arabella Lang, Frederico Mor, Sarah Priddy and Fox Hambly.
Over the election we have had 11 amazing researchers come in to support our day to day factchecking. The House of Commons Library, the Office for Statistics Regulation, and the Department of Health all kindly lent us excellent staff who had expertise in a wide range of topics including housing, health, agriculture, employment, and even the postal service.
Having staff from these organisations hugely strengthened our in-house expertise and our capacity to produce content fast for our website and to prepare for the live TV debates.
These secondments benefit us in the short term, we hope that the Full Fact experience of communicating facts will help the people who are responsible for answering parliamentary questions or publishing government statistics.
Here's what one of the secondees had to say...
“I have spent five weeks at Full Fact in the lead up to the election and was brought in on secondment to lend a hand with factchecking, mainly as a ‘health expert’. But my time hasn’t been limited to just health (although I definitely know a lot more about NHS finances than I used to!)
I have also worked on factchecks for lots of other areas, such as foreign aid, university applications, debt and inequality, corporate income tax, the living wage, air pollution, Brexit and the Lisbon Treaty. I think I’ve managed to learn nearly as much about government statistics in these five weeks as in my last four years in the civil service!
I’ve really enjoyed watching an election from a different perspective, and approaching political discourse in a different way. And it’s been such a rewarding experience to work with and learn from such a lovely and talented team.
Learning to communicate statistics and research for an audience that is wider than ministers and policy experts has been a great experience. Having to cut down a complex answer to a couple of hundred words for a newspaper piece, or into 140 characters for a tweet, has been challenging, but extremely rewarding.
Having previously worked in teams that publish National and Official Statistics, these five weeks have certainly given me a lot of food for thought on how we, as government analysts, can help the public consume the information we put out.
And my own personal highlight? Researching the funding and governance structure for the island of St Helena.” — Ben, a member of the Government Statistical Service and Government Social Research Service.
We don't just publish factchecks and leave it there: we go a step further and work with media outlets to get the facts out more widely. This helps us reach more people, but also strengthens our relationships with newsrooms around the country. That's especially useful when we have to ask for corrections to the record.
Two days before polling day, our Director Will Moy gave an epic 13 interviews to regional BBC Radio programmes, including Leeds, Newcastle and Wales over the course of two hours, factchecking the number of armed police in the UK following the London Bridge terror attack.
He also appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live and Reuters TV to discuss how fake news could affect the election. For a lot of the people listening it would have been the first they heard of us!
Profiled by the Guardian
We were featured on the front page of the Guardian (in print and online) on Saturday 20th May.
The most frequent of our media partnerships was our daily election factcheck in the pages of the Evening Standard, which ran from the beginning of May until polling day. We published 19 factchecks in this series, including claims from: the Conservatives (eight); Labour (eight); Liberal Democrats (two) and UKIP (one).
We worked with the Telegraph Data team to publish a series of factchecks which we updated throughout the campaign.
Regular Full Fact host Talk Radio published our manifesto factchecks on their website and had our Director Will Moy on ‘The Radio Hustle’ to discuss the Labour and Conservative manifestos.
Mashable UK produced bespoke illustrations to go alongside six of our factchecks. These were produced to be relevant to a younger audience and to be as shareable as possible. They went out on the penultimate day of the campaign.
Dazed magazine created slides from four factchecks which they featured on their Instagram feed. We were especially excited about this collaboration as it reached our to a younger audience.
Sometimes good engineering is like housework — you only notice if it's done badly.
So if you didn't notice that the website is more responsive, or featured more content, or the factcheckers responded more quickly during live factchecking, or that the servers were stable and nothing went offline, we can be proud of that too.
We spent a lot of our time working on the future of factchecking - we’ve been working on automated factchecking for a while but this election was the first time we got to put our tools into action.
Thanks to your help, we’ve built a system that lets us match claims in real-time. It takes a stream of subtitles, live from the TV, and looks for things we’ve already factchecked. When it finds it, it surfaces the conclusion. This helps us react faster.
We're hoping to spend the next year making this a reliable tool available for journalists in the UK and factcheckers around the world. Watch this space.
Education and News Literacy
Although education and news literacy wasn't our focus this election, we tried to do as much as we could with the resources we had. Mainly this included taking part in a Facebook Live with Change.org, sharing the top 10 tips for tackling false news, and sharing our recently launched toolkit.
We would love to be doing more education and news literacy, to help us on that mission, please donate.
Top 10 tips for tackling false news
Fake news is a complicated problem. In partnership with Facebook, we shared these ten tips for helping you take the first steps to spot misinformation.
Just before the election was announced we released our Toolkit. We continued to promote it during the weeks running up to the election. It includes:
- How to spot fake news
- How to spot fake photos and videos
- How to find facts
- Factchecking for schools
- Factchecking near you
- Our bookshelf
We helped the 1.4 million strong Change.org Facebook community cut through fake news, false information and political spin in the run up the election by taking part in their Facebook Live:
What we'd like to see improve next time...
We don’t express opinions about the matters we factcheck—that’s our readers’ job. But we will comment on a narrow range of issues about things like access to information or statistics which directly affect our mission to support well informed public debate.
Full Fact wrote to the UK’s top civil servant when the election was announced, because it is his job to set rules on what public bodies can and cannot do during the so-called ‘purdah’ period that covers the run up to an election.
Based on our experience in past votes, we asked him to make sure that the rules don't make it any harder to get hold of the expertise of the statisticians and publicly-funded researchers in places like the Office for National Statistics or even in universities.
You can read his reply here.
Before the election we wrote a submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry on fake news. We were concerned that inaccurate information could be spreading through hidden online advertising (dark ads) with no-one to scrutinise it.
As more people consume their news on Facebook, our concern grows too.
We called on the parties to publish what they put on Facebook, and who they are targeting their adverts at (see more here). To set an example, we will be publishing this information shortly.
Watch this space for more action from Full Fact on dark ads.
Working with First Draft
At the start of May we decided to work with First Draft, a global network of newsrooms technology companies, human rights organizations and academic institutions who specialise in verification.
We recruited eight journalists who very quickly set up a sophisticated monitoring system using a mixture of technologies: CrowdTangle, Google Trends, Newswhip, Trendolizer, Trendsmap, and Signal, as well as building numerous lists to monitor content and conversations on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and online forums.
Every morning we sent out an email to newsrooms telling them what was getting popular online. In the afternoon we sent out an email with our research findings, including verifying or debunking photos, and some of the results of our factchecking.
We'll be writing more about this soon.
Sincerely from all of us at Full Fact: Thank you
When this snap election was announced we had barely recovered from the EU referendum. It was incredibly heart warming and motivating to see so many of you reach out to us with words of encouragement and shows of support.
We hope we have you done you proud this election. And should there be another one (!) you can rely on us to be there.
— The Full Fact Team
Help us keep going
In the middle of our busy, rowdy democracy, we need to make sure that everyone can access impartial information. Our team needs to grow if we are going to regularly serve the tens of millions of people in the UK.
Ideally Full Fact would be funded by many small regular donations, this would help us safeguard our independence further. At the moment we have 481 regular donors, can you help us reach 1,000? Donate now