Fact checking in the 2019 election: Research recommendations

Vicol, Dora-Olivia; Sippitt, Amy

This briefing builds on peer-reviewed academic research and lessons drawn from Full Fact’s editorial team, to provide UK fact checkers and newsrooms with an evidence-based set of good practices.

There is good reason to take fact checking seriously. Generally speaking, fact checks reduce belief in misinformation, increase the perceived quality of news, and can help create a culture of accuracy in the long term. While we cannot correct everything, or everyone, fact checking is effective and the risk of “backfire” is minimal (entrenched misinformation which has become associated with identity groups being a potential exception). Overall, there is little doubt that fact checking plays an important civic role.

Good fact checking is also about tactics. Style wise, it is important to give answers early and clearly; to explain what is wrong, but also how inaccuracies arose in the first place; to ensure that contextual information supports the correction; and above all, to play fair.

In terms of format, belief correction is aided by fact checks that are easy to digest, where figures are supported by graphs and images.

There are also tactics of production to consider. Corrections delivered early minimise the “illusory truth effect” created by repeated misinformation, and those delivered with the involvement of the original source of the false information are more effective than those which merely prove them wrong.

Having said that, this briefing is not an exhaustive literature review. It is a summary of what we currently know and we see it as the beginning of a conversation, which will no doubt be refined with input from practitioners. We are working on a series of more detailed guides to the evidence as part of our research programme with Africa Check and Chequeado