Lead Stories

Organization: Lead Stories
Applicant: Maarten Schenk
Assessor: Margot Susca

Background

Lead Stories is a fact check site incorporated in the U.S. state of Colorado. At the time of my review, it lists online members of its executive team that include co-founder Maarten Schenk and editor-in-chief Alan Duke plus nine others described as fact checkers and/or writers. It is an existing IFCN signatory, and Mr. Schenk was last year tapped to be part of IFCN's working group looking at the harassment of fact checkers. The Poynter article is here: https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2021/ifcn-launches-working-group-to-address-harassment-against-fact-checkers/                         

Assessment Conclusion

I have previously assessed Lead Stories, and I note that my May 2022 assessment shows that the independent fact check site meets all criteria of the IFCN.                          

on 18-May-2022 (4 months ago)

Margot Susca assesses application as Compliant

A short summary in native publishing language

In all areas, Lead Stories meets or exceeds standards laid out in the IFCN Code of Principles. It has a commitment to nonpartisanship; is transparent about sourcing, funding, and methodology; lists relevant information about staffing and editorial control online; and has and follows a well-articulated corrections policy. 

Section 1: Eligibility to be a signatory

To be eligible to be a signatory, applicants must meet these six criteria

  • 1.1 The applicant is a legally registered organization, or a distinct team or unit within a legally registered organization, and details of this are easily found on its website.
  • 1.2 The team, unit or organization is set up exclusively for the purpose of fact-checking.
  • 1.3 The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the six months prior to the date of application. For applicants from countries with at least 5 or more verified signatories need to have at least a fact check a week over the twelve months of publishing track. Consult to factchecknet@poynter.org for confirmation.
  • 1.4 On average, at least 75% of the applicant’s fact checks focus on claims related to issues that, in the view of the IFCN, relate to or could have an impact on the welfare or well-being of individuals, the general public or society.
  • 1.5 The applicant’s editorial output is not, in the view of the IFCN, controlled by the state, a political party or politician.
  • 1.6 If the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, it provides a statement on its site setting out to the satisfaction of the IFCN, how it ensures its funders do not influence the findings of its reports.

Criteria 1.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please explain where on your website you set out information about your organization’s legal status and how this complies with criteria. Attach a link to the relevant page of your website.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago)

https://leadstories.com/about.html

Lead Stories is an LLC registered in Colorado.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

The Colorado Secretary of State's website shows Lead Stories LLC was incorporated in March 2015, and is in "good standing." Link to view its record may be found here: https://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/BusinessEntityDetail.do?quitButtonDestination=BusinessEntityResults&nameTyp=ENT&entityId2=20151218760&srchTyp=ENTITY&fileId=20151218760&masterFileId=20151218760

Under the About section of its website, Lead Stories has a section titled Company Information. I have included the entire section here for your review. 

'Company Information

Lead Stories LLC is Colorado company formed by Maarten Schenk (Belgium), Alan Duke (California), Perry R. Sanders (Colorado) and later joined by John C. Goede (Florida). The company is self-funded with no outside investors and relies on advertising revenue, license fees for the use of the Trendolizer™ engine and fees obtained through Facebook's third party fact checking partnership and other fact checking related consultancy work.

You can check our entry in the Colorado Secretary of State business registry here (note: if the link doesn't work simply click your 'back' button and reload the page).

If you need to contact us our contact information can be found here.'


done_all 1.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.2
Proof you meet criteria
Please answer the following questions – (see notes in Guidelines for Application on how to answer)

 1. When and why was your fact-checking operation started?
 2. How many people work or volunteer in the organization and what are their roles?
 3. What different activities does your organization carry out?
 4. What are the goals of your fact-checking operation over the coming year?

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

1. Lead Stories started in 2015 and transitioned from reporting about viral content into full-time fact checking at the end of that year and early in 2016.

2. The number has grown and fluctuated this year (new hires, people leaving, freelancers...). We now have around 70 people at any given time. Three are the co-founders/partners + one partner who joined later as legal counsel. Four staffers have editor roles, editing and coordinating the work of about ten to fifteen fact-checkers. Three other people don't directly write fact checks but collect potential misinformation for the fact checkers to work on and analyze trends in the misinformation landscape to provide intelligence about to clients. We also have one person exclusively working on website and UI design.  The rest of the staff are freelancers dedicated to our work for TikTok/ByteDance.

3. Fact checking and activities related to or supporting that mission. Beside our website with fact checks we also run and maintain Trendolizer, a software webservice that detects viral content online (used by fact checkers in several countries). We also provide analysis and information about the misinformation we fact check to partners like Facebook and TikTok.

4..One goal for this year is further professionalizing our HR management.  We've grown considerably in the last three years and we've turned several freelance staffers into full-time employees. Our longer term goal remains tackling online viral misinformation as quickly as possible by providing and spreading timely fact checks.  We originally planned to launch a German version of our website in 2022 to experiment with international expansion but due to current events we launched a Ukrainian and a Russian one instead (https://russian.leadstories.com and https://ukrainian.leadstories.com).  Depending on how the war goes we might launch on other languages later.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories is compliant and has sufficiently addressed all four questions. Its organization start date, as an example, is listed on the banner of its home page. (Screen shot attached) which is to say that any lay person would visit the site and immediately know the aims of its work dating back to 2015. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (45 KB)
done_all 1.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.3
Proof you meet criteria
- The applicant has published an average of at least one fact check a week over the course of the six months prior to the date of application.
- For applicants from countries with at least 5 or more verified signatories need to have at least a fact check a week over the twelve months of publishing track.
- Consult to factchecknet@poynter.org for confirmation.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead stories publishes about thirty fact checks per week in English.   We do about ten per week in Russian and Ukrainian.                            

Files Attached
description Fact checks of past... (125 KB)
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories publishes the required minimum of fact checks per week. I have reviewed its website, and I have seen that there are fact checks there across a range of dates and subjects. 


done_all 1.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous three months. No additional information required.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago)

We generally cover claims related to politics, current events, health, science, conspiracies, scams and the occasional entertainment story.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

I have reviewed the following fact checks. Others will be added to these in later sections of this assessment examining fairness, sourcing, and methodology specifically. 

May 9, 2022: Pfizer Documents Do NOT Show COVID Vaccine Claim Of 95% Efficacy Is 'Completely False,' Do NOT Show Harm To Fetuses

April 26, 2022: Recent Fires At US Food Processing Plants Do NOT Show Plot To Cause Food Shortage

April 18, 2022: Fourth Stimulus Checks Were NOT Issued In December 2021

Based on my review/reading of these and other fact checks, I can confirm that it covers a range of claims and issues, across political partites, and, in the last two+ years, related to Covid-19. 


done_all 1.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please explain any commercial, financial and/or institutional relationship your organization has to the state, politicians or political parties in the country or countries you cover. Also explain funding or support received from foreign as well as local state or political actors over the previous financial year.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Lead Stories offers access to the use of its Trendolizer engine on a commercial basis, including to political parties or government entities that request it.  However we currently have no state funded or political actors among our Trendolizer clients. 

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Compliant. They are transparent about these relationships, though the relationships do not appear to influence judgment or decision making around fact checks. As an example, on its About page, Lead Stories lists itself as "self-funded": "The company is self-funded with no outside investors and relies on advertising revenue, license fees for the use of the Trendolizer™ engine and fees obtained through Facebook's third party fact checking partnership and other fact checking related consultancy work."

Furthermore, on that same page under "Financial information about our fact checking operation," the site notes that its main funding sources in 2021 are: 

"Here is an overview of our main funding sources for 2021.

Facebook LLC

ByteDance LLC

Trendolizer™ subscriptions (see note)

Repustar Inc.

Google LLC

MGID Inc.

AdSupply Inc.

The bulk of our revenue originated from our work done as part of Facebook's Third-Party Fact Checking Partnership and our work for ByteDance related to TikTok. We also had a small amount of revenue by supplying summaries of our fact checks for Repustar's FactSparrow project."

And further, on its site under the same About page, it notes that: "Usage of the Trendolizer Website or Service does not grant you any influence, say or preferential treatment with regards to the selection of the content we choose to write about, the content of the articles we publish or the rating or conclusions Lead Stories draws about any such content.

No individual Trendolizer™ user accounts for more than %0.15 of our average monthly company revenue. Most users are fact checking organizations and media companies."



done_all 1.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 1.6
Proof you meet criteria
If you confirmed the organization receives funding from local or foreign state or political sources, provide a link to where on your website you set out how you ensure the editorial independence of your work.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

See the note on our "About" page: https://leadstories.com/about.html#note

The Trendolizer™ Terms of Service have a clause that reads:

"Usage of the Trendolizer Website or Service does not grant you any influence, say or preferential treatment with regards to the selection of the content we choose to write about, the content of the articles we publish or the rating or conclusions Lead Stories draws about any such content."

No individual Trendolizer™ user accounts for more than %0.1 of our average monthly company revenue.

Also see: https://leadstories.com/code-of-principles.html

We offer commercial access to our Trendolizer™ engine, including to political parties or campaigns that ask for it. All are offered the same conditions including a clause in the Terms of Service that explicitly says using Trendolizer™ does not confer any influence, privilege or say about our editorial work. Trendolizer™ fees are deliberately kept low in order to ensure individual user fees never make up more thanhttps://leadstories.com/how-we-work.html a tiny fraction of our total budget. This minimizes the potential for users to have leverage over us by threatening to cancel their account.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories is transparent in how it receives funding as well as how it is independent of political parties and affiliations. This question/criteria also overlaps with information provided in the assessment of Criteria 1.5. I note that no specific dollar amounts are provided nor does the Code ask that of organizations requesting to be signatories. 


done_all 1.6 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 2: A commitment to Non-partisanship and Fairness

To be compliant on nonpartisanship and fairness, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 2.1 The applicant fact-checks using the same high standards of evidence and judgement for equivalent claims regardless of who made the claim.
  • 2.2 The applicant does not unduly concentrate its fact-checking on any one side, considers the reach and importance of claims it selects to check and publishes a short statement on its website to set out how it selects claims to check.
  • 2.3 The applicant discloses in its fact checks relevant interests of the sources it quotes where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided. It also discloses in its fact checks any commercial or other such relationships it has that a member of the public might reasonably conclude could influence the findings of the fact check.
  • 2.4 The applicant is not as an organization affiliated with nor declares or shows support for any party, any politician or political candidate, nor does it advocate for or against any policy positions on any issues save for transparency and accuracy in public debate.
  • 2.5 The applicant sets out its policy on non-partisanship for staff on its site. Save for the issues of accuracy and transparency, the applicant’s staff do not get involved in advocacy or publicise their views on policy issues the organization might fact check in such a way as might lead a reasonable member of the public to see the organization’s work as biased.

Criteria 2.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please share links to 10 fact checks published over the past year that you believe demonstrate your non-partisanship.
Please briefly explain how the fact checks selected show that (I) you use the same high standards of evidence for equivalent claims, (II) follow the same essential process for every fact check and (III) let the evidence dictate your conclusions.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2022/02/fact-check-photo-of-steve-bannon-with-bloody-mouth-is-not-authentic.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/10/fact-check-23000-voters-registered-with-same-wisconsin-number-not-proof-of-election-fraud.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/12/fact-check-mike-lindell-did-not-give-closed-door-testimonies-against-trump.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/08/fact-check-mike-lindells-numbers-do-not-prove-fake-ballots-injected.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/11/fact-check-kyle-rittenhouse-did-not-cross-state-lines-with-an-ar-15.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/12/fact-check-canada-did-not-issue-a-list-of-18-words-pr-phrases-that-people-are-no-longer-allowed-to-say.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/07/fact-check-rep-marjorie-taylor-greene-did-not-say-jesus-loves-the-us-most-and-that-is-why-the-bible-is-written-in-english.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/03/fact-check-screenshot-of-post-fron-robert-aaron-long-is-not-from-a-real-account.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2022/02/fact-check-dan-bongino-used-wrong-places-in-graphic-of-unhealthiest-us-cities-run-by-democrats.html

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/10/fact-check-author-or-article-does-not-question-positive-effects-of-vaccines.html

As our "How we work" page (https://leadstories.com/how-we-work.html) explains, we pick viral stories and claims to debunk without taking political slant into account.  That means we will sometimes debunk false claims or stories hurting the reputation of the very same people, causes or ideologies that we have debunked claims from.  In all cases our methodology is the same (as described on our "How we work" page) and we try to put in enough original sources, quotes, evidence etc. to allow readers to repeat the fact check for themselves so they can see how we came to our conclusion.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

The concept of nonpartisanship on the Lead Stories site is an interesting one. It specifically has a "blue feed" and "red feed" related to misinformation about political parties and/or fact checks on issues that may, as a result of the current political climate, appear to be in line with one political party or politician. A screen shot of those links on the top of each page of Lead Stories' website is attached to show what this looks like. With that said, a review of these feeds demonstrates that both major U.S. political parties as well as individual politicians in them included but not limited to President Biden to former President Donald Trump shows that the site is in compliance with a commitment to and demonstration of nonpartisanship.  

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (28 KB)
done_all 2.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.2
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to a place on your website where you explain how you select claims to check, explaining how you ensure you do not unduly concentrate your fact-checking on any one side, and how you consider the reach and importance of the claims you select to check.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories tends to focus on claims that go viral for its fact checks : It specifically uses data from the Trendolizer (and other data/trend sites) to monitor viral claims, issues, and/or visuals. With that said, the volume of both its blue and red feeds as well as its war (Ukraine) and Covid feeds ensure it does not just examine one-sided talking points. Online, it has a "How We Work" link that explains in easy-to-understand terms, how and why it picks its fact checks/issues/subjects. Furthermore, its site explains the other data/trend aggregators that help it to make its decisions on claims. Here is an example of that information from its site: 

"On a typical day we will look for the most trending stories/videos/posts/... with these tools and pick the ones that meet following criteria:

They make a claim that can be checked (i.e. no pure opinions, predictions, vague statements or prophecies). Note we include claims that could be checked theoretically with access to the right evidence or witnesses but where this very hard or impossible in practice (quotes from closed meetings, insider information...).

They are harmful to someone. We interpret "harmful" quite broadly here, it can include anything where there is a risk of: negative health impacts, reputational damage, political decisions based on inaccurate information, minimizing or exaggerating real problems, emotional impact over fictional stories presented as real, fraudsters profiting from spreading false info, financial loss, distorted understanding of current events, people getting wrongly blamed for things, false evidence being used to support larger conspiracy theories...

They are (likely to go) viral or contain a claim that has gone viral in the past. Note that we don't use fixed numerical cut-off rates (i.e. it must have more than x likes or y views), we tend to look more at the relative ranking (i.e. "this is the most viewed video about this particular conspiracy" or "this is the most popular fact checking related Google search today") and we sometimes also look at the number of places a claim is appearing (hundreds of tweets with the same image and one image tweet with hundreds of retweets are both valid reasons to check out the image). To determine which items are "likely" to go viral we look at short term steep increases in engagement and the audience size of the source making or spreading the claim (an Instagram page with a million followers vs. an obscure blog read by almost nobody).

They are relevant to or affecting a U.S. audience. We will generally leave the internal politics, hoaxes and harmful misinfo going viral in other countries to the fact checkers in those countries unless there is a U.S. angle or the same claims are also spreading in America."


done_all 2.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous year. No additional information required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

May 9, 2022 Kentucky Derby Winning Jockey Did NOT Reject White House Invitation By Referring To 'A Horse's Ass' -- It's Old Fake Quote

Apparently, this is a fake quote that's been out in the internet for four years but took up a new life on Facebook after the 2022 Kentucky Derby. No jockey made any reference to presidents past or present as a horse's body part. Lead Stories explains that the fake quote originated (in this cycle) in a May 8, 2022 Facebook post. Lead Stories shows a screen shot of that Facebook post with the words Recycled Hoax put over it. Further, it explains an earlier iteration of the same fake element. It says: 'The earliest version was found in a June 10, 2018, Reddit post that cited this quote as a joke about "Triple Crown winner Justify." In 2021, Lead Stories debunked the exact claim in this post -- which was falsely attributed to jockey John Velazquez.'




done_all 2.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will assess compliance through a review of the fact checks published over the previous year. No additional information required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Feb. 7, 2022 Dan Bongino Used Wrong Places In Graphic Of Unhealthy U.S. Cities Run By Democrats

"The top 10 healthiest cities are the ones Bongino listed on his chart as the unhealthiest, with another mistake. The healthiest cities in the list include Irvine, California, but the Bongino graphic changed it to Irving, Texas. During the segment, Bongino claimed that all these cities were run by "garbage Democrat politicians." Along with the incorrect identification of Irving as one of the unhealthiest cites he was also wrong about its leadership. While the office of mayor in Irving is a nonpartisan office, current Mayor Rick Stopfer has been identified by political blogs as a Republican.

Video from the later airing of the show removed the graphic and ran footage of homeless people in the streets, according to video published on Mediaite.

A Fox News spokesperson told Lead Stories via email on February 8, 2022, that the graphic with the incorrect information would be "corrected" on the upcoming show"


done_all 2.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 2.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to a place on your website where you publish a statement setting out your policy on non-partisanship for staff and how it ensures the organization meets this criteria.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

https://leadstories.com/code-of-principles.html (Under the nonpartisanship and fairness section)

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

This is compliant. Its policy, which is noted online states, "A COMMITMENT TO NONPARTISANSHIP AND FAIRNESS

We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check."

Again, I would point to its Blue Feed and Red Feed as examples of how it fact checks both sides of the aisle. I also have reviewed claims related to politicians and issues related to Democrats and Republicans. 


done_all 2.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 3: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Sources

To be compliant on sources, applicants must meet these four criteria

  • 3.1 The applicant identifies the source of all significant evidence used in their fact checks, providing relevant links where the source is available online, in such a way that users can replicate their work if they wish. In cases where identifying the source would compromise the source’s personal security, the applicant provides as much detail as compatible with the source’s safety.
  • 3.2 The applicant uses the best available primary, not secondary, sources of evidence wherever suitable primary sources are available. Where suitable primary sources are not available, the applicant explains the use of a secondary source.
  • 3.3 The applicant checks all key elements of claims against more than one named source of evidence save where the one source is the only source relevant on the topic.
  • 3.4 The applicant identifies in its fact checks the relevant interests of the sources it uses where the reader might reasonably conclude those interests could influence the accuracy of the evidence provided.

Criteria 3.1
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

For this section related to sourcing, I have listed the date, the headline, a short description of the fact check, and listed the sources used for that fact check. In all cases, I have reviewed whether the source is an official government one; is a transcript of an official's statement; or alternatively, comes from a peer-reviewed academic work or University, scholarly work. In all cases if a hyperlink to the initial study, video of a person's words, and/or government or scholarly data is provided, I clicked through to see that it was indeed from that place. For Criteria 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, IFCN should be aware that when a source is listed by me, that means that it is considered a reputable source that I have clicked through and reviewed included whether, if it is an academic work, it is a scholarly and peer-reviewed article, which is considered the academy's standard. 

Jan. 17, 2022: Meme Does NOT Paint Accurate Picture Of Effectiveness Of COVID-19 Vaccines

This one centered on a meme circulating on FB that claimed incorrectly vaccine effectiveness would wear off in a few months and everyone would die and go to heaven. So, Lead Stories starts by saying basically that it's true that over time our knowledge of vaccines and effectiveness will shift. In fairness, then they explained how vaccine effectiveness stands based on what was known at the time. 

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine; CDC (including information on its vaccine effectiveness percentages)


done_all 3.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

May 6, 2022: Fetuses Do NOT Have Fingerprints At 9 Weeks

Lead Stories used Mayo Clinic information that shows fetal development stages (related to fingerprints, heartbeat, feet shape) to debunk this claim circulated on Facebook.

Other sources included: a double-board certified OBGYN; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; reviewed journal article in Pediatric Cardiology 


done_all 3.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

May 5, 2022 NO Evidence Of 'Increased Emergency Cardiovascular Events' In Israel's Under-40s With Vaccine Rollout, 3rd COVID Wave

Study was called limited and that it had "cherry picked" information. 

Sources: American College of Cardiology member; Johns Hopkins Medicine doctor; Pfizer 


done_all 3.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 3.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the applicant’s use of sources in a randomised sample of its fact checks to assess compliance. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

April 22, 2022 NO Evidence 'Vaccines Are Killing People Of Color At Twice The Rate Of White People,' As HHS Head Said On April 14, 2022

The HHS secretary said the words, but, they aren't true. 

"Lead Stories reached out to the White House to ask about Becerra's comments. In an email on April 22, 2022, a spokesman wrote that Becerra misspoke. The secretary likely meant to say that COVID kills people of color at around twice the rate as white people, which is more or less true, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."

Sources: White House spox; CDC; White House video 


done_all 3.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 4: A commitment to Transparency of Funding & Organization

To be compliant on funding and organization, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 4.1 Applicants that are independent organizations have a page on their website detailing each source of funding accounting for 5% or more of total revenue for its previous financial year. This page also sets out the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).
  • 4.2 Applicants that are the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization make a statement on ownership.
  • 4.3 A statement on the applicant’s website sets out the applicant’s organizational structure and makes clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.
  • 4.4 A page on the applicant’s website details the professional biography of all those who, according to the organizational structure and play a significant part in its editorial output.
  • 4.5 The applicant provides easy means on its website and/or via social media for users to communicate with the editorial team.

Criteria 4.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please confirm whether you are an ‘independent organization’
or ‘the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization’ and share proof of this organizational status.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Independent organization.

The link to our company registration is on our "About" page: https://leadstories.com/about.html

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories is an independent organization confirmed by its Colorado registry documents. Its website lists its organization status as well as its funding, executive team, and writers. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (64 KB)
done_all 4.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.2
Proof you meet criteria
If your organization is an “independent organization”, please share a link to the page on your website where you detail your funding and indicate the legal form in which the organization is registered (e.g. as a non-profit, as a company etc).
If your organization is “the fact-checking section or unit of a media house or other parent organization”, please share a link to the statement on your website about your ownership.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

This is clearly articulated, and I reviewed online where the site lists about itself, its funding, its organization, and how it works. As an example, I've included its Company Information from the site. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (64 KB)
done_all 4.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.3
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you set out your organizational structure, making clear how and by whom editorial control is exercised.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

This is clear and any reader/user could easily understand how Lead Stories exercises editorial control. It lists its management team as well as its fact checkers and writers. Furthermore, it lists all by name with contact information. 


done_all 4.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.4
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you set out the professional biographies of those who play a significant part in your organization’s editorial output.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Biographies are clearly listed. At the end of each fact check I reviewed, the writer's photograph and bio is published. I attached a screen shot of one of the fact checkers as an example. 

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (75 KB)
done_all 4.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 4.5
Proof you meet criteria
Please share a link to where on your website you encourage users to communicate with your editorial team.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Every page on our website has this note in the sidebar:

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

Spotted something? Let us know!.

The "Let us know" links to our contact page: https://leadstories.com/contact.html (that link is also present under "Contact" in the footer)

Note that on our contact page we explicitly say we will ignore abusive or threatening emails and ask people to send them to hatemail@leadstories.com if they feel they must send them anyway.  Funnily enough this works and the amount of such emails to the other inboxes listed on the contact page has markedly decreased.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories invites participation with its staff both on work that could be fact checked or needs to be corrected. It also notes it received hate mail, and I've included a section on that below. 

Related to contacting Lead Stories staffers, I sent an email to alan@leadstories.com at 4:21 p.m. EST on May 9, 2022 to make sure email was functioning and going through. I note that a response is not required, but I received one the same day. 

Files Attached
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done_all 4.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 5: A commitment to Standards and Transparency of Methodology

To be compliant on methodology, applicants must meet these six criteria

  • 5.1 The applicant publishes on its website a statement about the methodology it uses to select, research, write and publish its fact checks.
  • 5.2 The applicant selects claims to check based primarily on the reach and importance of the claims, and where possible explains the reason for choosing the claim to check.
  • 5.3 The applicant sets out in its fact checks relevant evidence that appears to support the claim as well as relevant evidence that appears to undermine it.
  • 5.4 The applicant in its fact checks assesses the merits of the evidence found using the same high standards applied to evidence on equivalent claims, regardless of who made the claim.
  • 5.5 The applicant seeks where possible to contact those who made the claim to seek supporting evidence, noting that (I) this is often not possible with online claims, (II) if the person who makes the claim fails to reply in a timely way this should not impede the fact check, (III) if a speaker adds caveats to the claim, the fact-checker should be free to continue with checking the original claim, (IV) fact-checkers may not wish to contact the person who made the claim for safety or other legitimate reasons.
  • 5.6 The applicant encourages users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable.

Criteria 5.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a link to the statement on your website that explains the methodology you use to select, research, write and publish your fact checks.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

This is clear and follows IFCN's commitment to standards and transparency. Its information on methodology (full methods section is attached) explains there are differences in its approach but questions its staffers consider include the following:

Where did the claim originally come from and is there evidence for that orgin? If something first appeared in a fictional setting or in a satirical piece it is quite unlikely to be true. In some cases it is unfortunately not possible to find the original source.

If the source is known: what evidence does it cite and does it support the claim? (If an article says "New study says X", does the study actually say X?)

Does technical analysis of the source and/or evidence show proof of tampering, editing or manipulation?

Does the claim or the evidence match with the record? ("Does this quote really occur in this recorded interview?", "Was this photo really taken on date X in location Y?")

Does the claim mix things up or cause confusion, intentional or not? (Almost any judge, cop or prison guard in the world can be said to have had "associations with known criminals" and every almost every fireman "has been at the scene of a suspicious fire carrying an axe", that does not mean they are evil or something nefarious was going on.) 

Files Attached
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done_all 5.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

May 11, 2021 The Keystone Pipeline Is NOT Closed And Is NOT Causing The Gas Shortage On The East Coast

Keystone Pipeline is not the Colonial Pipeline, which was targeted with a cyberattack and shutdown for a period that month. That lead to some confusion over which pipeline was which as well as how much President Biden had to do with it. 

The Lead Stories fact check used maps and data from the US Energy Information System to explain the cyberattack and how and where it influenced shutdowns/shortages/price issues. 


done_all 5.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.3
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

May 4, 2022 Biden Administration Is NOT Providing Solar Panels, Tesla Powerwall To Qualified Homeowners For Free

It turns out a Facebook post claiming the government will pay for Tesla solar products is false. 

Lead Stories' method shows it explaining the original bunk post before moving on to explain that there is no government stimulus program and that at the time Build Back Better passed on the US House. 


done_all 5.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.4
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

April 19, 2022 Biden's Gesture Was NOT Directed To Empty Space -- There Was Audience Seating There

It may have, from a tight angle, looked as if Pres. Biden were giving a handshake to no one. But, using wide camera angles from WFMY news, Lead Stories determined that it was not a handshake but more of a gesture to the audience. Lead Stories methodology also shows that it turned to an ABC News local reporter who was there to debunk the Facebook claim. 



done_all 5.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.5
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the methodology used in a randomised sample of your fact checks to assess compliance with these criteria. No additional evidence is required.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

June 9, 2021 Marjorie Taylor Greene Did NOT Say 'People Are Dying Who Have Never Died Before'

It turns out the MTG quote is actually from a 1930 letter penned by Ernest Hemingway, appearing on social media as early as 2009. The fact checker in this case found the passage from a Hemingway work and showed it on the page. 


done_all 5.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 5.6
Proof you meet criteria
Please describe how you encourage users to send in claims to check, while making it clear what readers can legitimately expect will be fact-checked and what isn’t fact-checkable. Include links where appropriate. If you do not allow this, explain why.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

We link to our contact page (https://leadstories.com/contact.html) and sollicit tips on every page on our website:

"Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

Spotted something? Let us know!."

The contact page has this note:

"Tips & information

Have a tip about something we should look at? Additional information that could change the conclusion of a fact check? Email tips@leadstories.com and let us know.

We are most interested in viral claims/stories/videos/images/posts (no matter the political slant) that are false (or very misleading), harmful to someone and relevant to a U.S. audience. If your tip is about something else it is unlikely we will write a fact check about it. You can read more about how we decide what to fact check here."

That last sentence links to our "How we work" page (https://leadstories.com/how-we-work.html) where we explain (among other things) how we select claims to check. It also has this note:

"Reader tips are judged by the same criteria listed above: if we get sent claims that are uncheckable, harmless or not very widespread there is very little chance we will follow up on them. Conversely, a concrete, harmful and viral story will get our attention."

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

This is clear and user-friendly. I confirm that I read the "How we work" tab of its site to see how Lead Stories discussed with its audience how it works and what could reasonably be covered by a fact check on the site. 


done_all 5.6 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Section 6: A commitment to an Open & Honest Corrections Policy

To be compliant on corrections policy, applicants must meet these five criteria

  • 6.1 The applicant has a corrections or complaints policy that is easily visible and accessible on the organization’s website or frequently referenced in broadcasts.
  • 6.2 The policy sets out clear definitions of what it does and does not cover, how major mistakes, especially those requiring revised conclusions of a fact check, are handled, and the fact that some complaints may justify no response. This policy is adhered to scrupulously.
  • 6.3 Where credible evidence is provided that the applicant has made a mistake worthy of correction, the applicant makes a correction openly and transparently, seeking as far as possible to ensure that users of the original see the correction and the corrected version.
  • 6.4 The applicant, if an existing signatory, should either on its corrections/complaints page or on the page where it declares itself an IFCN signatory inform users that if they believe the signatory is violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN, with a link to the IFCN site.
  • 6.5 If the applicant is the fact-checking unit of a media company, it is a requirement of signatory status that the parent media company has and adheres to an open and honest corrections policy.

Criteria 6.1
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a link to where you publish on your website your corrections or complaints policy. If you are primarily a broadcaster, please provide evidence you frequently reference your corrections policy in broadcasts.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Our corrections policy is here: https://leadstories.com/corrections-policy.html

Our stories with corrections are here: https://leadstories.com/corrections/

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Lead Stories has a very visible corrections tab near the top of its site alongside its red and blue feeds. It's clear and states they want to get it right when a mistake has been made. I note that is corrections feed lists three from the last six months, and all of those say Story Updated at the top of the page and explain the mistake and the update.  A copy of its last story/fact check that required a correction is attached.                                                                                                        

Files Attached
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done_all 6.1 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.2
Proof you meet criteria
The assessor will review the corrections policy to verify it meets critera. No additional information needed.

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Stories marked under the corrections page are marked as having needed a correction with an explanation for transparency. Not only does it meet the criteria, but it's one of the more visible parts of its home page ribbon. 


done_all 6.2 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.3
Proof you meet criteria
Please provide a short statement about how the policy was adhered to over the previous year (or six months if this is the first application) including evidence of two examples of the responses provided by the applicant to a correction request over the previous year. Where no correction request has been made in the previous year, you must state this in your application, which will be publicly available in the assessment if your application is successful.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Western Journal contacted us because the original verions of the fact check implied they neglected to provide evidence while in reality it was Senator Graham who didn't provide it.

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2020/11/no-evidence-provided-to-say-six-people-in-pennsylvania-died-then-registered-then-voted.html

This article was corrected after an internal review found the headline was inaccurate in that it stated Covid-19 was deadlier than Spanish Flu without backing that up with evidence.

https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2022/01/fact-check-covid-19-is-deadlier-than-the-spanish-flu-and-seasonal-flu.html

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

At the top of these stories it says STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Corrections are clearly labeled. Stories marked under the corrections page are marked as having needed a correction with an explanation for transparency. I attached a screen shot of its March 17 story that required a correction. This is one example of a story that used the corrections policy, which I reviewed, and found to be in compliance with the IFCN criteria.

Files Attached
Screen Shot 2022-05-... (114 KB)
done_all 6.3 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.4
Proof you meet criteria
If you are an existing signatory, please provide a link to show where on your site you inform users that if they believe you are violating the IFCN Code, they may inform the IFCN of this, with a link to the complaints page on the IFCN site.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

The link to the IFCN page is clear and functioning. A screen shot of its web placement is shown. 

Files Attached
Lead Stories IFCN Si... (69 KB)
done_all 6.4 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.

Criteria 6.5
Proof you meet criteria
If you are the fact-checking unit of a media company, please provide a link to the parent media company’s honest and open corrections policy and provide evidence that it adheres to this.

Lead Stories
15-Feb-2022 (7 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

N/A

Margot Susca Assessor
09-May-2022 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

N/A 

Lead Stories is independent. 


done_all 6.5 marked as Compliant by Margot Susca.