Quickly check whether a political statement is fact, fiction or something in between. Fact checking websites won’t give you all the answers or tell you what to think, but they they can help you sort out what is and isn’t true – and that’s important.
Occasionally American election seasons can become mean-spirited, with both sides saying things that are veritably untrue while constantly accusing the other side of lying. We’re lucky – this year everyone is behaving, and there are no such problems at all. Seriously. It’s been great.
But if the next election somehow proves to be full of spin and outright distortions it will be good to know which sites are trying to work out whether a statement is true or false – regardless of which party that statement comes from.
This Pulitzer-prize winning project – run by the Tampa Bay Times – is among the best known fact-checking sites in America. It is also perhaps the simplest of these sites to browse. Statements from politicians are shown alongside the “truth-o-meter”, an imaginary device capable of showing you the truth of a statement with a simple color code. Red lies, yellow partial truths and green facts are easy enough to interpret, and if the meter is on fire you know a statement is completely false.
It’s a somewhat childish scale, sure, but it’s great at a glance – and clicking any statement provides an in-depth breakdown of the facts. Check out Politifact now if you’re interested; there’s even smartphone apps if you want them.
Another site frequently cited by the press, FactCheck.org is offered by the Anenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. There’s no convenient dial telling you how true a statement is, but you’ll find articles exploring the facts behind statements made by prominent politicians.
Check out FactCheck.org now, if you’re interested.
This blog, offered by the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, breaks down political advertisements as well as headline-making statements from both parties.
It’s not staffed by an entire team like the above fact checking websites, but it does regularly break down what’s being said. Check out Fact Checker if you’re interested.
No list of fact-checking sites is complete without Snopes, the oldest such site on the Internet. Originally focused on verifying or refuting the email forwards and Internet legends that quickly spread in the web’s early days, Snopes today may seem old-fashioned. The information it offers, however, is still extremely relevant.
The site concerns itself more with lingering rumors than up-to-the-minute assessment of statements, but it’s still a great reference for when your Uncle tells you Mitt Romney is Mexican or your friend at work insists President Obama is an atheistic Muslim.
Politics isn’t a sport – you can’t simply cheer for your team and deride the others. Making an informed decision means paying attention to all sides and weighing the evidence. That’s why having a healthy information diet is essential, but even if you’re conscious about the kind of information you consume it’s easy for intelligent people to believe things that aren’t true.
Fact checkers aren’t magic: they’re perfectly capable of getting things wrong from time to time, and if they get things wrong in a way that hurts your favored team that will obviously upset you. That doesn’t mean fact-checking as a pursuit is worthless, however – having someone try to verify whether a concrete statement is actually true is helpful, regardless of which seeming truth you might prefer.
Of course these aren’t the only sites checking facts: most major newspapers do so routinely. These sites simply arrange information about the accuracy of statements in a way that’s simple to browse. What decisions you come to after reading this information is up to you.
Do you know of any other fact-checking sites worth considering? Share them in the comments below, or simply accuse me of having a conservative and/or liberal bias.