Full Fact, fact checking and the UK Data Service

Andy dudfield of Full FactWe welcome Andy Dudfield from Full Fact, who explains the importance of fact checking and how the UK Data Service supports Full Fact’s work.

Bad information ruins lives.

It damages people’s health and it hurts democracy. 

That’s why fact checking is so vital.  Teams around the world, including Full Fact in the UK, are working to get good information to those who need it most – helping more people make informed choices about their lives.

Importantly, we know fact checking works.

A recently published study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that used Full Fact fact checks as part of its research found that on average fact checks reduce belief in misinformation. This was true across different countries, cultures, and political environments. 

In addition, the study showed that fact checking increased accurate beliefs regardless of political affiliation, a trend that held firm regardless of how politically salient the topic

Coming off the back of a year where we’ve seen bad information threaten lives, this study shows the difference fact checking can make.

Here at Full Fact, we don’t just publish our fact checks and hope for change, but also believe that fact checks should lead to action

If a politician or journalist gets something wrong in public, we ask that they correct themselves in public too. We focus on false claims which have the potential to cause the most harm, and where there is the clearest route to change.

Evidence tells us that corrections can be most effective if whoever said the claim corrects it themselves. This helps us to change attitudes and behaviours, encourage a culture of accuracy, and gather evidence about how well the systems meant to stop bad information reaching the public are working.

We take action in four ways:

  • Direct contact with claimant, for instance a correction to a newspaper article or asking for the publication of withheld data
  • Contacting another actor that can influence the claimant, such as a regulator
  • Using public channels to influence the claimant, for instance with press activity
  • Longer-term approaches, such as developing policy positions and campaigning for change

Fact checks are designed to show their working, be transparent in conclusions reached and invite readers to check sources for themselves. We don’t ask people to take our word for it. 

Fact checking is a process that needs to balance pace and accuracy. Pace because it’s important to address misinformation as quickly as possible. Accuracy because we/the facts need to be trustworthy in our checks – but that takes time.

Getting to the bottom of hundreds if not thousands of potentially misleading claims, so that we can take the action and gain the impact described above, can take some doing. This is why Full Fact is a user of the UK Data Service.  

We have tended to make use of the Nesstar tool, which allows for a high-level interface to large datasets. This has supported our work in researching things like regional housing tenure, the reasons for young people being in NEET status, and a cross-tab comparison of people with zero hours contracts who are members of a trade union

One of the things that stands out about the UK Data Service is just how much they care about users. They make incredible efforts to reach out to users and make its data more accessible. Staff at Full Fact have attended many webinars from them in the past and found them a very good grounding of the scope of UK Data Service data and methods of how to access them.

The UK Data Service and the services it offers make our lives as fact checkers easier. 


About the author

Andy Dudfield is Full Fact Head of Automated Fact Checking.

Andy leads the Full Fact automated fact checking team and is focused on ensuring automated fact checking technology is developing in line with the needs of fact checkers around the world. Andy was previously the Chief Publishing Officer of the UK Office for National Statistics and prior to that spent a decade working in product and technology roles at the BBC.

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