The Ferret Fact Service is Scotland’s first non-partisan fact checking service.
Launched in the Spring of 2017, FFS was the first Scottish fact-checker accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.
What do we check?
We check statements from politicians, pundits and prominent public figures about issues which you are interested in. Fact checks will also be undertaken on some viral claims, hoaxes and memes which are widely shared on social media but do not come from a specific person.
When we are looking at potential checks, we ask ourselves a few questions to see whether a statement or claim is appropriate for fact checking.
Is it verifiable? We don’t check opinions which are subjective value judgements, entirely speculative, or based on moral or philosophical argument.
Is it likely to be widely seen? We aim to check the veracity of claims which may have an impact on the public debate, and therefore have the potential to mislead a lot of people.
What is the source of the claim? We are more likely to check claims from those who have a significant voice in public debate, such as politicians and public figures.
Is it newsworthy? We want to fact check things which are part of the current conversation, so will focus on current issues as they come up.
Would you hear or read the claim and wonder about it’s veracity? The Ferret Fact Service’s aim is to inform the public, and so we aim to check statements which can be questioned.
How do we find facts to check?
Fact checks can come from a host of places, including reader’s suggestions.
We spend a lot of our time looking at press releases, listening to TV and radio speeches or debates, reading media reports in newspapers and online, watching what goes on in the Scottish Parliament and at Westminster in the chamber and in debates and committees.
We also use social media analysis tools, and pore over social media and comment sections to see which public statements people are talking about.
Ferret Fact Service attempts to check on a wide variety of political and social issues to make sure our work is fair and evenly distributed. We do not want to fact check too many claims on a specific issue at the expense of the wider political conversation.
Who can submit a fact check?
The purpose of the Ferret Fact Service is to help you navigate through the murky waters of politics and current affairs by telling you when a claim is true, or when someone is trying to mislead you, or when it’s a bit of both.
So we want you to suggest claims you want to see checked. Any member of the public can contact us to bring our attention to a statement that would be appropriate.
How do we check a claim?
Once we decide on a statement to check, our first step is to go to the person or entity who made the original claim to ask for evidence where possible.
This allows them the right of reply, and holds them directly accountable for their own words.
If they provide us with evidence, we assess it and research alongside the other available material to determine how accurate the statement is.
The information we look at is on-the-record, publicly available and from the most authoritative sources. We will also speak to experts in the relevant field to help us interpret claims and research.
At the Ferret Fact Service we have full transparency in our research and will provide a full list of our source documents, data and links so you can check our research yourself and see how we came to our conclusion.
We will also let you know, where possible, who suggested the fact check if it came from outside the Ferret Fact Service team.
How do we come to our verdicts?
After interpreting and evaluating the evidence we give each of our Ferret Fact Service checks a final rating. While this verdict is the final assessment of just how truthful we find the statement to be, it should be taken along with the evidence in the full check and our accompanying analysis.
The decision on how to rate a claim is taken by the Ferret Fact Service editorial panel, which is made up of the fact checker along with two editors, who will review each article and suggest edits or changes. So you can be sure that a claim has been cross-checked by at least two other people.
We rate our fact checks on a six-point scale which is explained below:
True – The claim is accurate, and has not left out mitigating factors or important context
Mostly True – The claim is still true, but requires further information or clarification to create a full picture
Half True – The claim is somewhat or partially accurate, but leaves out crucial information or is selectively taken out of context
Mostly False – The claim may contain a kernel of truth but leaves out facts which lead one to a different impression.
False – The claim is incorrect, not accurate.
FFS! (For Facts’ Sake) – The claim is baseless, ridiculous and/or logically impossible!
Unsupported – A claim that is not backed up by solid evidence and cannot conclusively be judged true or false.
Corrections and updates
While we strive for accuracy in every Ferret Fact Service check, we are only human.
Occasionally we may make errors, and if so we will say so. If an article is changed as a result, we will let you know what changes have been made at the bottom.
There may also be occasions where new information comes to light which could alter the conclusion of a fact check. If so, we may update the article to reflect the change, but the fact check should be seen as an assessment of veracity at the time of its completion.
Sometimes you may agree with the conclusion we come to and sometimes you may disagree.
If you want to make a complaint about a fact-checking article, you can do so at the above email address or through our Complaints page.
All International Fact-Checking Network signatories must comply with the IFCN Code of Principles.
If you believe that Ferret Fact Service has violated the code, you can make a complaint via this link. The IFCN does not intervene over the accuracy of individual checks, but can do if you believe there has been a breach of the IFCN code.
Cover image: Library | CC | Rich Grundy | https://flic.kr/p/aDHjXF