About the Ferret Fact Service

What is The Ferret Fact Service?

The Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is Scotland’s first non-partisan fact checking service, launched in Spring 2017. It is the fact-checking arm of The Ferret

We check statements from politicians, pundits and prominent public figures about issues which you are interested in. Fact checks are also undertaken on viral claims, hoaxes and memes which are widely shared on social media.

We also produce a podcast called The FFS Show that rounds-up our latest fact-checks and discuss the best ways to spot misinformation.

Who works for The Ferret Fact Service?

Our chief fact-checker is Alastair Brian. He previously worked for STV News, ITV Border and BBC Scotland across features, news and politics. He leads on fact-checking for The Ferret and runs fact-checking workshops across the country, and is very passionate about news sites including hyperlinks to their sources!

He graduated in MA Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2013, and has a BA Politics and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen.

Alastair is supported by The Ferret Fact Service editorial committee. This currently includes Ferret journalists Ally Tibbitt, Rob Edwards, Billy Briggs and Karin Goodwin. You can read more about the editorial board here.

Who funds The Ferret Fact Service?

Ferret Fact Service was founded in April 2017 after a grant of 50,000E from Google’s Digital News Initiative. This grant was for one year to launch the service. Ferret Fact Service is now funded by subscribers to The Ferret.

A full list of grant funders for The Ferret is available here.

Does The Ferret Fact Service support any political parties?

No. Ferret Fact Service is non-partisan. This means that we are politically neutral and will not endorse or support any political party.

Additionally, none of our fact-check team are members of any political party and we do not accept donations from political parties, or any organisation that seeks to influence our editorial independence.

What do we fact 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 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? 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.

Members of this forum can suggest ideas for fact checks in the Story Ideas category of this forum.

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.

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 at least 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, updates and complaints

You can find our Corrections policy here: https://community.theferret.scot/t/corrections-and-update-policy/

You can find our Complaints policy here: Complaints