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Welcome

Election FactCheck is an independent, non-partisan public service that will test the truthfulness of political statements during Australia’s federal election campaign.

Academics with subject expertise will check claims by politicians, interest groups and the media for accuracy. A second academic will independently review the check.

We do not pretend that issues are black and white — we acknowledge complexity — but we do believe that informed debate in a democracy is possible only when citizens have trusted information about the basic facts on contentious issues.

Fact checking during political campaigns is new in Australia, but well-established in the US. For the federal election, there are other local players – the American spin-off PolitiFact Australia, sponsored by Channel 7, and the ABC’s soon-to-be-launched fact checking unit. We welcome them. Each will work in a slightly different way, and we believe the more people testing the claims and counterclaims during an election the better.

The idea of fact checking is hardly revolutionary – it’s what journalists do every day, and something The Conversation has been doing since our launch two years ago. But in a 24-hour news cycle, there is often less time for journalists to check whether a statement is more spin than substance. As well, the internet makes possible a dedicated site to focus on bringing accountability to political assertions.

We don’t suggest fact checking is the sole answer to improving political debate. But it has a useful role to play. As Brooks Jackson, who set up FactCheck.org in the United States in 2003, wrote recently, fact checking can’t stop politicians bamboozling voters, “but we can make voters harder to fool”.

Gay Alcorn
Editor
Election FactCheck

Our Process

The Conversation’s editors will choose which statements to check. We will ask ourselves: how significant is the statement, how often is it asserted, and could it lead people to ask: “I wonder if that’s true?”

An academic with relevant expertise will be commissioned to check the statement based on the best available evidence. They will provide reasons for their verdict and provide relevant context.

A second academic will undertake a “blind” review of the check – he or she will not know the identity of the original fact checker. The reviewer will write a short report confirming that the check is accurate and adding comments if they wish.

Each week, we will fact-check any significant factual assertions on the ABC’s Q & A program on Monday nights. To allow us to publish the checks as soon as possible, there will be no review process for these checks.

OUR VERDICTS

We considered, and rejected, the idea of rating statements “True” or “False” or “Half True” or “Half False”. When trialling it, we found that a one or two-word rating was unhelpful to understanding the issue and was often too subjective. The difference between “Half True” and “Mostly True” was meaningless in many cases and depended on whether a statement was taken literally or put in context. We still publish a “verdict”, but it will be a short statement that allows for context if necessary.

YOUR ELECTORATE

We are keen to move beyond the national campaign to check statements made in local electorates. Help us out by telling us what’s happening in your seat - it might be a pamphlet you’ve received in the mail, or a statement a candidate has made in the local paper, or an email you’ve received. We particularly want to check statements of relevance to people in regional and country areas, too often overlooked by the national media. If you have an idea, please let us know. We may not always include a review for these checks, depending on how difficult it is to find two academics with expertise about a local issue.

OUR SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

We welcome feedback, dissent and debate. We don’t assume our checks are the last word on a subject, and we are keen to hear your views. We will, however, moderate comments on our Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels in line with our Community Standards and in particular will not tolerate personal attacks, abuse, or defamatory language.

OUR INDEPENDENCE

The Conversation is primarily funded by Australia’s universities as a way for academics to contribute to the national conversation and to share their knowledge and research. It also receives funding from the federal government’s Higher Education Department, corporations and individual donations. Our editorial independence is guaranteed in every funding agreement.

CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

We commit to correct or clarify established errors. If you believe any FactCheck is inaccurate in a substantial way, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

REQUEST A CHECK

We welcome ideas about which statements we should check. Let us know through through the link on our homepage or send us an email at checkit@theconversation.edu.au. We can’t guarantee we will be able to check every idea, but we will do our best. We also welcome ideas from media organisations as to which claims they believe are worth checking. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.

WANT TO REPUBLISH?

Whether you are a media organisation, a blogger, or a community group, you are welcome to republish our FactChecks at no cost. Just follow our simple guidelines

Join the conversation

5 Comments sorted by

  1. John Doyle
    John Doyle is a Friend of The Conversation.

    architect

    Journalist Alan Austin fact checked both Tony Abbott's budget reply speech and Sloppy Joe's press club speech.

    Both came up wanting. Both replete with lies.
    This LNP lying needs to be brought to book

    I look forward to seeing these lies countered.
    The LNP doesn't need to lie, even now D Rudd is in the mix.
    It does in my book disqualify T A's credibility and his right to govern

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    1. Hardy Gosch
      Hardy Gosch is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Mr.

      In reply to John Doyle

      "The LNP doesn't need to lie".
      Yes, unfortunately they do! Their faux policies simply do not stand up to scrutiny. I wish it weren't so.
      As long as the LNP can count on the support of the IPA, Murdoch, Rinehart, Pell and their ilk the truth will be largely hidden and the public will be none the wiser!

      The public should be asked:
      Have Murdoch and mates made up your mind how to vote?

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  2. Hardy Gosch
    Hardy Gosch is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Mr.

    "Academics with subject expertise will check claims by politicians, interest groups and the media for accuracy. A second academic will independently review the check."
    Excellent, as long as impartiality is maintained.

    The media’s ethical failures include crude abuse and incitement to hatred on commercial radio talkback, while among other mainstream media the failure of impartiality, failure of contextual accuracy, and the willingness to exploit rather than challenge debased public discourse…

    Read more
  3. heather loader

    retired

    I have a lot of confidence in this forum knowing that Gay Alcorn is the editor. Looking forward to reading updates over the coming weeks.

    report
  4. Ingrid van der Horst

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Is it possible not to use abbreviations as I am not familiar with these and cannot follow the reasoning by the authors. Many thanks.

    report