Fighting the causes and consequences of bad information: the Full Fact Report 2020
As fact checkers, we want to reduce the spread of information that can disrupt democracy or put people’s lives at risk.
But we also want to ensure that the right information reaches the people who need it most: whether that is the public when trying to make a decision about their health or who to vote for, or policymakers looking to change things for the better in our society.
In a new report funded by the Nuffield Foundation, we draw on our ten years of experience—covering three elections, the EU referendum and the current coronavirus pandemic—to set out why bad information starts, how it spreads and what we can do about it.
We explain how UK policymakers, journalists, think tanks, charities and internet companies can all take steps to help fight bad information, with recommendations including:
- A culture of transparency and accuracy in government: all major policy announcements should include the evidence to back them up, and politicians making claims in public should be ready to make the data they rely on public
- Political parties should be more transparent about whether, and how, they fact check announcements or speeches, including publishing reports and press releases for scrutiny
- Correcting false claims: in 2019, less than half of the papers and politicians we asked for a correction responded to us. This is not good enough.
- Press offices should encourage accurate coverage of their work, by including important caveats and sources in their releases.
- The government should urgently implement reforms to electoral law, including requirements that information on the content, targeting, reach and spend on political adverts be made publicly available and updated in real-time
- Internet users should be able to easily flag suspicious content on whichever platform they're using, which internet companies should share with independent fact checkers and be transparent about the results of this work.
- Regulatory responses to tackling bad information must be proportionate to ensure free speech. Efforts to tackle bad information should not be at the expense of the other fundamentals within a democracy, including the rights to freedom of opinion and of expression.
This is the first in a planned series of three annual reports, monitoring progress in the fight against bad information.
For the past decade, Full Fact’s supporters and readers have backed our fight against bad information, giving us the strength to demand that our politicians and press get their facts straight, back up what they say with evidence, and correct themselves when they get it wrong.
You can help: share our new calls for action, and join our community of supporters.