General Election 2019, fact checked
We knew this would be a difficult election.
Despite calls from Full Fact, the Electoral Commission, the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and many others to reform our dangerously out of date election laws, nothing was done in time. This election was left wide open to misinformation and abuse.
The past six weeks have proved we were right to be worried. We’ve seen inappropriate and misleading campaign tactics that we hadn’t before, many of which have crossed the line - we’ve called these out throughout the campaign.
The consequences of this behaviour will be felt for years to come. The latest Ipsos MORI Veracity Index found that just 14% of the public said they trust politicians in general to tell the truth, the lowest score in ten years. Our own research found that 77% think truthfulness in UK politics has got worse since the last general election of 2017.
We knew independent, impartial, timely fact checking would be more needed than ever this election. So we asked for your help and have been overwhelmed by the response. Over 2,265 people have donated to support our work. Your support has helped us to fact check more claims and reach more voters with good information on the pledges, promises and policies of this campaign.
We’re also very grateful to the Nuffield Foundation for supporting our election response as part of their efforts to ensure that public debate is underpinned by independent, rigorous analysis and fact checking. Thanks to them we’ve been able to temporarily expand our team and conduct research into voters’ experiences of information and key claims during the campaign.
For all of us as voters, this has been a frustrating and challenging election. But we’re very proud of the work we’ve done together to raise standards in politics:
Facts, fact checking and explainers
Our team of fact checkers and volunteers have been exceptionally busy, with over 110 fact checks published across our election hub, live blog and our Ask Full Fact campaign.
Some of the biggest battlegrounds of this election have been the parties’ plans for Brexit and the NHS.
At the end of the campaign, we published round-ups of all the key claims we checked from the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, and the Brexit Party, Green Party and Plaid Cymru.
We scrutinised each of the main parties’ manifestos, getting into the detail behind the biggest claims and campaign pledges.
This election saw head to head debates between party leaders and representatives take place on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
Live fact checking TV debates is a huge test of our fact checkers, our automated fact checking tools and our communications team. We tweeted along with the programmes and produced rapid round up articles for our website and newsletter subscribers.
We knew online adverts would be a crucial battleground this election, and they have been a big theme in media discussion.
We scrutinised a number of ads throughout the campaign, including a Conservative ad that misrepresented independent journalism and claims spread in Labour ads that their policies would save the average family £6,700.
As we’ve said, outdated electoral laws were not updated in time to ensure proper transparency during the campaign, which has left us reliant on the measures provided by the internet companies.
Using these, we analysed the markedly different approaches used by the Conservatives and Labour parties throughout the campaign, and the accuracy of their claims.
At Full Fact, we’re always looking for ways to get our fact checks out to readers in a timely and useful way. This election, we introduced a live blog feature to our website for the first time. The live blog gave us the chance to publish fast, reactive fact checks on some of the big developing news stories of the campaign.
We also brought back one of our most popular features from previous votes: ‘Ask Full Fact’. This meant we were able to take questions directly from readers about the election and campaign claims. We received an incredible 473 questions on 5 topics and managed to answer 23 before polling day.
As well as Twitter and Facebook, we’ve been more active on Instagram this election. We produced a series of new fact check Stories, short videos and visual verdicts on the key claims, and added over a thousand new followers in the process.
We also produced a video round up of all the key claims of the election.
As always, this election we relied on expert, independent organisations to help us address the key issues. We’re very grateful to the Institute for Government, the Institute of Fiscal Studies, UK in a Changing Europe, Migration Observatory, the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Sutton Trust and Harry Sullivan, a barrister at Goldsmith Chambers, for their time and support.
We are also grateful for the House of Commons Library, the House of Lords and the Office for National Statistics for sending us secondees.
We didn’t fact check this election alone.
As well as other independent fact checking organisations, such as First Draft, broadcasters and newspapers including the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian all ran their own fact checking operations during this campaign.
We wanted to share our own experiences and research into what makes effective fact checking techniques to support these efforts. In the opening days of the election campaign, we released guidelines for newsrooms on what we know works, which was covered by industry trade title Press Gazette.
Our regular readers and Full Fact supporters were first in line to get our fact checks throughout the campaign. But we also wanted to make sure others benefited, and were able to make an informed vote come 12 December.
That’s why, at the start of the election, we launched partnerships with several major broadcasters and print newspapers. We wanted to reach as many people as possible with good, trustworthy information.
We ran daily fact checks in partnership with Sky News’ Campaign Check, and in the Evening Standard newspaper.
Every Friday, our chief executive Will Moy sat down with Eddie Mair on LBC to run through the biggest claims of the last week. On Sundays he joined Alexis Conran on talkRADIO and Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live to answer listener questions.
Our editor Tom Philips sat down with Eamonn Holmes on talkRADIO every Monday evening.
This election we saw several debates between the party leaders. We teamed up with ITV to provide on-the-night analysis of their debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.
In the news
It’s part of our job to call out misleading or inappropriate tactics when necessary, and tell our political leaders that the public expect better, and deserve better.
Even before the election began, we called out the Conservative party for misrepresenting independent journalism in their Facebook ads.
As the campaign got underway, we criticised deceptive campaign leaflets and material, and these comments were quoted by the Times, BBC, Guardian and many local titles.
After a political party press office imitated an independent fact checker on Twitter, we spoke to the BBC, Sky News and other broadcasters about why we thought this was inappropriate and misleading. Our response was featured in news reports across the UK and worldwide.
We gave regular interviews about our work and the launch of our election toolkit for voters, explaining how people can protect their vote. Viewers saw or heard from us on BBC News, Sky News, the Financial Times, Newsnight, the Today programme, and many more.
We made sure to reach out beyond London. As well as supporting ITV’s regional editors with fact check queries, we spoke to the likes of BBC Scotland and Wales, Heart Home Counties, Lincolnshire FM, and Liverpool's City Talk.
Dozens of our fact checks were reported by newspapers and reporters, meaning we were able to reach millions more people with accurate information. BBC Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce read one of our checks during the programme, while programme producers also corrected themselves when we called them out for misleading viewers about electoral law breaking during the EU Referendum.
In total, Full Fact was mentioned over 4,000 times by other media organisations during the election campaign.
We are developing automated fact checking tools to help us scale, target, and evaluate our fact checking process. When we live fact check TV debates, these tools let us identify claims to check in real time and flag up claims we’ve already checked before. They also help us to track the spread of claims we’ve checked and track our impact on decreasing the spread of false claims.
This election we built new capability to monitor Google, Facebook and Twitter ads for new and repeating claims. We also used AI to help fact check the party manifestos for the first time.
We’re excited to see what more our tools can do to help fight bad information.
We wanted to understand voters' experiences of this election, and how our work can help. We worked with the research agency BritainThinks to see how voters experienced the messages and claims put out by the parties this election, and the extent to which these were affecting their attitudes and decisions, including through focus groups in two marginal constituencies and a national survey. We'll be releasing our findings from this next year.
Reaching more people
Thanks to you, we grew our audience. We reached 2.5m users on our website and millions more through social media and our media partnerships.
We were thrilled to welcome 14,000 new subscribers to our mailing list (hello!), as well as 43,000 new Twitter followers, 12,735 new Facebook followers and 1,880 new Instagram followers.
It’s vital that voters are aware of potentially false and misleading claims. To help voters navigate a world with more information than ever before, we promoted our new toolkit to help people spot bad and misleading information. We also brought our advice to life in a quiz that showed people examples of the claims we’ve checked this year and what to look for when they see questionable claims online.
Under-18s might not have voted this time round, but they were still watching the campaign unfold. Our Deputy Editor Claire Milne teamed up with London Grid for Learning to teach thousands of secondary school children across the country about the dangers of bad information online and the importance of protecting their vote when they get it.
We even found time to advise on a mobile game! We were thrilled when top game developers Ndemic Creations asked us to collaborate on a new scenario for their bestselling game Plague Inc. The scenario launched last week and will teach players around the world about the extreme consequences of bad information and how fact checkers like us are fighting it.
Misleading tactics have been allowed to flourish this election, partly due to our outdated election laws.
We already know what needs to happen next. The last government agreed the need for legislation to safeguard our democracy. Our newly elected Parliament must bring election laws into the reality of 21st century campaigning. Full Fact will continue to argue for the changes we need before we next head to the polls.
We wrote to all candidates at the start of this election campaign with three simple challenges: get your facts right, back up your claims with evidence and correct the record when you get something wrong. We were delighted that many got back to say they agreed with us. Our job over the lifetime of this Parliament is to work with new MPs from all parties to improve information in public life.
There is no doubt that parties and campaigns on all sides fell short of the standards we expect this election. We deserved better. But it’s important to remember that this campaign wasn’t all bad. Some parties did admit their mistakes and drop false and misleading claims. We know that most candidates want better debate. Some of them may well have won your trust over the course of the campaign.
We want to understand more about the damage bad information can do to this trust. During this election we spoke to and polled thousands of voters across the country, and will be publishing the results of this research soon.
We need to have a serious conversation about trust in politics. With your support, Full Fact will hold new MPs from all parties to account over the course of the next Parliament.
New MPs don’t have to stick to old habits. Together we can stand up for the standards we deserve.
And you can help us, by joining us today. Our supporters keep us fact checking the claims that cause the most harm and are part of our fight to protect our health, democracy and communities from bad information.