RMIT ABC Fact Check

Organization: RMIT ABC Fact Check
Applicant: Russell Skelton
Assessor: Raymond Joseph

Background

I have previously assessed RMIT ABC Fact Check and it is gratifying to see how this partnership has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in June 2016.

RMIT ABC Fact Check describes the partnership between RMIT University and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as “combining academic excellence and the best of Australian journalism to inform the public through an independent non-partisan voice.”

This means that while fact-checks follow stringent editorial practices and workflows, the partnership adds a level of academic research rigour to the work they do. Significantly, Fact Check has committed to the editorial standards and policies of the ABC and to its complaints process.

The relationship between the ABC and RMIT is governed by a confidential partnership agreement that sets out both parties' obligations, including adherence to editorial and complaints policies and the financial contributions of both parties. In terms of the agreement, both parties contribute staff and resources to RMIT ABC Fact Check, which is based at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Fact-Check jealously guards itself against any perception of bias or partisanship, as is made clear in this unequivocal statement in the about section of its website: “As a condition of employment, staff of the unit cannot be members of political parties or activist groups and must declare all previous affiliations."

During the period covered by this assessment, Fact-Check covered a varied range of topics, but like most fact-checking organisations a key focus has been on debunking Covid-19 and vaccination-related misinformation. It also publishes a weekly newsletter, CoronaCheck, which currently has 18,000 subscribers, and focuses on debunking Covid -19 misinformation, using short, punchy fact-checks.

Another example of the value of the partnership can be found in how RMIT ABC Fact Check is working with the RMIT Fact Lab and RMIT's Department of Computer Science Technologies “to better understand why people share misinformation and the profile of those people.”

Assessment Conclusion

I have no hesitation in recommending the renewal of RMIT ABC Fact Check's IFCN membership.

on 12-Jul-2021 (4 months ago)

Raymond Joseph assesses application as Compliant

A short summary in native publishing language

See "Background"

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

This is a link to our About page that explains, ownership, origins and methodology. It appears on the ABC News Online website, so it should be treated as an official public statement by the ABC and RMIT University. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact-Check is a collaboration between the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) https://www.abc.net.au/news/ and RMIT University (https://www.rmit.edu.au/).

The ABC is a publicly funded, independent media organisation (https://ab.co/3k7nGTM), with the fact-checking operation funded jointly by RMIT University and the ABC. Therefore RMIT ABC Fact Check, while editorially independent, is accountable to the Australian Parliament.

The relationship between the ABC and RMIT is governed by a confidential partnership agreement which this assessor has seen after it was shared with IFCN during a previous assessment. The agreement is a legally binding document that sets out both parties' obligations, including adherence to editorial policies and complaints policies, and the financial contributions of both parties. 

RMIT ABC has confirmed in this latest application that this agreement still stands and has not been modified.

In terms of the agreement, both parties contribute staff and resources to RMIT ABC Fact Check.

Editorial output is owned by RMIT but is shared equally with the ABC. In the partnership, the ABC covers all production costs and RMIT covers research costs (salaries of researchers and editors).

Editorial content produced from the partnership is published across ABC's media platforms. 

RMIT ABC Fact Check has committed to the editorial standards and policies and the complaints process of ABC.

The relationship between RMIT and ABC is explained here https://ab.co/3r1gdqSAb in the About section of the Fact Check website. 

The following statement explains the relationship: ": "(RMIT ABC Fact Check)... is a partnership between RMIT University and the ABC combining academic excellence and the best of Australian journalism to inform the public through an independent non-partisan voice.

The fact-check section (https://ab.co/2RRwAGc) is situated within ABC's main news website and is accessed via a Fact-Check tab on the Home page.



done_all 1.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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?

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check was launched at RMIT University in Melbourne in June 2016. RMIT ABC Fact Check evolved from ABC Fact Check that was launched in 2013. The current staff include:

The Director: Russell Skelton

Chief of Staff: Sushi Das

Economic and Finance editor: Josh Gordon

Creative lead: Devi Mallal

Chief Fact Checker: Lis Sexton

Online Editor: Matt Martino

Editor CoronaCheck newsletter: Ellen Mcutchan

Senior Researcher and statistician: David Campbell

Part-time researchers: Sonny Thomas, Leonie Wood. 

Contributing editor: Simon Mann (part-time)

RMIT ABC Fact Check interrogates for accuracy the claims of public figures (Politicians), lobby groups and prominent individuals on issues of public policy.  It also publishes Fact Files on issues of public importance where the facts are contested or confused. Since March 2020 it has published the CoronaCheck newsletter debunking misinformation about the pandemic. Content from the newsletter is published on ABC News Online, on ABC 24 (TV) and across ABC social media platforms. 

In 2021 RMIT ABC Fact Check is working with the IFCN and ABC International to train journalists and media managers working in the Pacific region in fact-checking.  The teaching and learning project will be launched in June and run for two months. Similar courses are planned for journalists working in community radio in Australia.

RMIT ABC Fact Check is working with RMIT Fact Lab and RMIT's department of computer science technologies to better understand how our audiences engage with and respond to our fact checks. Using our 18,000 subscribers to the CoronaCheck newsletter we are running a series of scientifically constructed and weighted questionnaires to understand why people share misinformation and the profile of those people. This is an ongoing project. The results of the research will be used to broaden our audience and identify the sources and spread of misinformation.


 

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

1) RMIT ABC Fact Check was launched at RMIT University in Melbourne in June 2016. RMIT ABC Fact Check evolved from ABC Fact Check, which was launched in 2013.

2) Its current staff is made up of eight full-time employees and three part-timers.

They are:

Director: Russell Skelton

Chief of Staff: Sushi Das

Economic and Finance editor: Josh Gordon

Creative lead: Devi Mallal

Chief Fact Checker: Lis Sexton

Online Editor: Matt Martino

Editor CoronaCheck newsletter: Ellen Mcutchan

Senior Researcher and statistician: David Campbell

Part-time researchers: Sonny Thomas, Leonie Wood.

Contributing editor: Simon Mann (part-time)

3) "RMIT ABC Fact Check determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups, and institutions engaged in the public debate." From "About" https://ab.co/3r1gdqS  

It also "publishes Fact Files on issues of public importance, where the facts are contested or confused."

Since March 2020, it has published the CoronaCheck newsletter, which fact-checks and debunks misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. Content from the newsletter is also published on ABC News Online, on ABC 24 (TV), and across ABC social media platforms.

4) "RMIT ABC Fact Check is working with RMIT Fact Lab and RMIT's Department of Computer Science Technologies to better understand how audiences engage with and respond to our fact-checks. Using our 18,000 subscribers to the CoronaCheck newsletter, we are running a series of scientifically constructed and weighted questionnaires to understand why people share misinformation and the profile of those people. This is an ongoing project. The results of the research will be used to broaden our audience and identify the sources and spread of misinformation."


done_all 1.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check has published over 80 Fact Checks in the past 12 months. 

Files Attached
insert_drive_file Fact Check published... (89 KB)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

RMIT ABC says in its renewal application that it has published more than 80 fact-checks in the past 12 months." This is equivalent to an average of almost 7 fact-checks a month. An analysis of the fact-checks during the past six months confirmed that the required criterion has been met.


done_all 1.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

ABC-RMIT meets this criterion.


done_all 1.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check receives no funding from political actors or self-interested lobby groups or individuals. The partnership is funded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (25%) and RMIT University (75%) with additional funding for specific projects from the IFCN (Pacific Island Nations Fact Check Training) and the Judith Neilson Institute for Independent Journalism (JNI supports the CoronaCheck newsletter) which is acknowledged on our website and on the newsletter. Less than 5% of our funding in 2020 came from the IFCN and JNI. 

A link to JNI: https://jninstitute.org/

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a publicly funded national broadcaster that is politically independent of government rather like the BBC.

Here is a link to the ABC Broadcasting Act which guarantees the ABC editorial independence: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2018C00079

 Keywords in the charter include:

"The responsibility of the Corporation as the provider of an independent national broadcasting service to provide a balance between broadcasting programs of wide appeal and specialized broadcasting programs."

RMIT University is publicly funded by the State Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

It also receives funds from student fees.  Legally it is an independent statutory body. 

A link to the RMIT home page;

https://www.rmit.edu.au/about/governance-management

For more background on RMIT University please go to :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMIT_University

Please note: In the previous successful application RMIT ABC Fact Check provided a confidential copy of the partnership agreement. This agreement still stands and has not been modified. 


Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check confirmed in its application that it receives no funding from "political actors or self-interested lobby groups or individuals". 

The partnership is funded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (25%) and RMIT University (75%) with additional funding for specific projects from the IFCN (Pacific Island Nations Fact-Check Training) and the Judith Neilson Institute for Independent Journalism 

The Judith Neilson Institute (JNI) -https://jninstitute.org - and IFCN  support the RMIT ABC CoronaCheck newsletter which is acknowledged in every newsletter. RMIT ABC says that less than 5% of their funding in 2020 came from the IFCN and JNI.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a publicly funded national broadcaster that is politically independent of government, like the BBC. The ABC Broadcasting Act which guarantees the ABC editorial independence: See: https://bit.ly/3APehGn 

Keywords in the charter include:

"The responsibility of the Corporation as the provider of an independent national broadcasting service to provide a balance between broadcasting programs of wide appeal and specialized broadcasting programs."

RMIT University is publicly funded by the State Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government of Australia. It also receives funds from student fees. Legally it is an independent statutory body.

For more background on RMIT University see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMIT_University


done_all 1.5 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Not applicable. 

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Not applicable


done_all 1.6 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-02/fact-check-morrison-coronavirus-recession-gfc-recession-30-times/100177354

2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-11/fact-check-climate-change-targets-kevin-rudd-turnbull/100106860

3. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-16/scott-morrison-claims-australia-vaccination-rollout-fact-check/100070100

4. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-23/fact-check-nbn-co-bonuses-paul-fletcher/100020864

5. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-11/fact-check-pfizer-vaccine-deals-made-around-the-world/13233572

6. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-23/fact-check-is-welfare-dependency-the-lowest-for-30-years/13178984

7. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-18/did-australia-post-use-taxpayers-money-to-purchase-cartier-watch/12967188

8. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-10/fact-check-anao-funding-has-the-coalition-gutted/12962116

9. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-01/fact-check-have-emissions-fallen-just-1-per-cent-under-coalition/12927804

10. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-03/fact-check-is-gas-just-as-dirty-as-coal-adam-bandt/12838066

RMIT uses the same criteria to access every fact check. We do not ascribe motive or blame but interrogate the claim made for accuracy against data and expert opinion. For our purposes, a fact check must be relevant, checkable in terms of available data or expert analysis and preferably contested. Our verdicts are nuanced to fit the context and the circumstance. We do not use rigidly defined verdict categories. Our mission is to inform the public policy debate not to pick winners and losers or say who is good and who is bad. During the Pandemic, RMIT ABC Fact Check has focused more on the Prime Minister and government leaders as they are the ones making the key decisions and driving the policy debate. The opposition parties have until recently taken a bipartisan approach to the government's policy decisions around the pandemic. Fact checks published in the CoronaCheck newsletter cover a range of misinformation circulating on social media platforms that do not always involve politicians and more often relates to influential individuals.  We only check posts that have widespread circulation and sharing and are likely to disrupt evidence-based policymaking.   

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From the RMIT ABC Fact-Check application.

"RMIT ABC uses the same criteria to access every fact check. 

We do not ascribe motive or blame but interrogate the claim made for accuracy against data and expert opinion. 

For our purposes, a fact-check must be relevant, checkable in terms of available data or expert analysis, and preferably contested. 

Our verdicts are nuanced to fit the context and the circumstance. 

We do not use rigidly defined verdict categories. 

Our mission is to inform the public policy debate not to pick winners and losers or say who is good and who is bad. 

During the Pandemic, RMIT ABC Fact Check has focused more on the Prime Minister and government leaders as they are the ones making the key decisions and driving the policy debate. The opposition parties have until recently taken a bipartisan approach to the government's policy decisions around the pandemic. Fact checks published in the CoronaCheck newsletter cover a range of misinformation circulating on social media platforms that do not always involve politicians and more often relate to influential individuals. 

 We only check posts that have widespread circulation and sharing and are likely to disrupt evidence-based policymaking. 

An assessment of supplied fact-checks, below, and others checked by the assessor, confirms that the required criteria have been met.

1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-02/fact-check-morrison-coronavirus-recession-gfc-recession-30-times/100177354 

2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-11/fact-check-climate-change-targets-kevin-rudd-turnbull/100106860

3. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-16/scott-morrison-claims-australia-vaccination-rollout-fact-check/100070100

4. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-23/fact-check-nbn-co-bonuses-paul-fletcher/100020864

5. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-11/fact-check-pfizer-vaccine-deals-made-around-the-world/13233572

6. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-23/fact-check-is-welfare-dependency-the-lowest-for-30-years/13178984

7. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-18/did-australia-post-use-taxpayers-money-to-purchase-cartier-watch/12967188

8. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-10/fact-check-anao-funding-has-the-coalition-gutted/12962116

9. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-01/fact-check-have-emissions-fallen-just-1-per-cent-under-coalition/12927804

10. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-03/fact-check-is-gas-just-as-dirty-as-coal-adam-bandt/12838066




done_all 2.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-23/explainer:-how-does-rmit-abc-fact-check-find-and/9183264


A full explanation of our methodology is found on our website here:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0

It says:

Our entire team monitors broadcast, print and social media, as well as Parliament, for checkable claims.

We also take suggestions from the public.

We're not about the gotcha, and we prefer to check contested claims which beg the question: can that be right?

VIDEO: Explainer: How does RMIT ABC Fact Check find and fact check claims? (ABC News)

Once the director approves a claim, one of the designated researcher contacts experts in the field to seek their opinion and guidance on available data. We are careful to select experts who are politically neutral and do not have party political or public interest affiliations. 

We may also contact the claimant to ask for the basis of the claim.

The expert opinion and data are written into a draft, which is then reviewed by our chief fact-checker, who identifies problems and challenges the researcher on anything that they might have missed.

The chief fact-checker also scrutinises all sources and makes sure the draft is consistent with the supporting data.

The researcher continually reworks the draft based on this feedback, and once the chief fact checker is satisfied, the team discusses the final verdict

These discussions are rigorous and much thought is given to the verdict word and the colour that will be used, which is an important part of how we inject nuance into our verdicts.

Our online editor then prepares the final product, which is once again checked by the chief fact-checker for any inaccuracies which may have crept up during the editing process.

Once the director signs off on the finished draft, it's ready to be released to the world.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Video explainer of the RMIT ABC Fact-Check fact-checking process: https://ab.co/2yCPGZD

A full explanation of RMIT ABC's methodology in the "About" section on their website: https://ab.co/3r1gdqS

"Our entire team monitors broadcast, print and social media, as well as Parliament, for checkable claims.

We also take suggestions from the public.

We're not about the gotcha, and we prefer to check contested claims which beg the question: can that be right?

Once the director approves a claim, one of the designated researchers contacts experts in the field to seek their opinion and guidance on available data. We are careful to select experts who are politically neutral and do not have party political or public interest affiliations.

We may also contact the claimant to ask for the basis of the claim.

The expert opinion and data are written into a draft, which is then reviewed by our chief fact-checker, who identifies problems and challenges the researcher on anything that they might have missed.

The chief fact-checker also scrutinises all sources and makes sure the draft is consistent with the supporting data.

The researcher continually reworks the draft based on this feedback, and once the chief fact checker is satisfied, the team discusses the final verdict 

These discussions are rigorous and much thought is given to the verdict word and the colour that will be used, which is an important part of how we inject nuance into our verdicts. [All verdicts fall into three colour-based categories: in the red, in the green, or in between – red being a negative ruling, and green being a positive.]

Our online editor then prepares the final product, which is once again checked by the chief fact-checker for any inaccuracies which may have crept up during the editing process.

Once the director signs off on the finished draft, it's ready to be released to the world."


done_all 2.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All required criteria have been met.


done_all 2.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All required criteria have been met.


done_all 2.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0


Our Website states: As a condition of employment, staff of the unit cannot be members of political parties or activist groups and must declare any historical affiliations. Fact Check does not seek to influence voters or push for a particular election outcome or be a dispenser of "truth". We do not speculate on the motives of those who may get it wrong and we are not about "gotcha" moments.


Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From the website's "About" section: https://ab.co/3r1gdqS 

"As a condition of employment, staff of the unit cannot be members of political parties or activist groups and must declare all previous affiliations."


done_all 2.5 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Required criteria have been met.


done_all 3.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago
Required criteria have been met.

done_all 3.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Required criteria have been met.


done_all 3.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Required criteria have been met.


done_all 3.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
RMIT ABC Fact Check is a partnership between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and RMIT University based in Melbourne.


The details of the partnership are publicly available on the Fact Check website published by ABC News Online:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0

The legal status is based on a confidential business agreement where both parties agree to contribute staff and resources to RMIT ABC Fact Check. Fact Check is based at RMIT University, Latrobe Street, Melbourne, Australia. 

Editorial output is owned by RMIT but is shared equally with the ABC. In the partnership, the ABC covers all production costs and RMIT  research costs (salaries of researchers and editors). 

Editorial content from the partnership is published across ABC media platforms. RMIT ABC Fact Check is committed to the editorial standards and policies of the ABC and its complaints process. 

Please note: a confidential copy of the agreement was made available to the IFCN board in 2020. This has not been changed.  



Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact Check is a partnership between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and RMIT University, based in Melbourne.

The details of the partnership are publicly available on the Fact Check website published by ABC News Online: https://ab.co/3r1gdqS 

The legal status is based on a confidential business agreement where both parties agree to contribute staff and resources to RMIT ABC Fact Check. Fact Check is based at RMIT University,  Melbourne, Australia. 


done_all 4.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
While this is a partnership, details of the partnership are published on the ABC News Online Fact Check website.
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Details of the RMIT and ABC partnership are published on the ABC News Online Fact Check website. https://ab.co/3r1gdqS

The ABC is responsible to the Federal Parliament of Australia and this is written into legislation. See https://bit.ly/2T4yPK7 for details:


done_all 4.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From "About": 

"Once the director approves a claim, one of our researchers contacts experts in the field to seek their opinion and guidance on available data.

We may also contact the claimant to ask for the basis of the claim.

The expert opinion and data are written into a draft, which is then reviewed by our chief fact-checker, who identifies problems and challenges the researcher on anything that they might have missed.

The chief fact-checker also scrutinises all sources and makes sure the draft is consistent with what the data says.

The researcher continually reworks the draft based on this feedback, and once the chief fact checker is satisfied, the team discusses the final verdict

These discussions are rigorous and much thought is given to the verdict word and the colour that will be used, which is an important part of how we inject nuance into our verdicts.

Our online editor then prepares the final product, which is once again checked by the chief fact-checker for any inaccuracies which may have crept up during the editing process.

Once the director signs off on the finished draft, it's ready to be released to the world."


done_all 4.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

See "The RMIT ABC Fact Check team" in the "About" section: https://bit.ly/2T4yPK7 


done_all 4.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/contact/?nw=0


On our About page we also state the following with links:

We aim to be available to all audiences by operating across multiple platforms, including television, radio and online plus ABC social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. 

Fact check suggestions from the audience are welcomed and can be submitted via the contact page, or via our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Audience comment and feedback is encouraged.

All verdicts fall into three colour-based categories: in the red, in the green or in between – red being a negative ruling, and green being positive.

In the interests of transparency, all sources relevant to the verdicts are identified online.

Our aim is to be 100 per cent accurate. But if a mistake is made, the item in question will be corrected and if necessary the verdict revised.

Statements can be both right and wrong, depending on when they were said. Determinations are therefore based on the evidence available at the time.

If an audience member believes a fact check does not meet our high standards for rigour and accuracy, they can lodge a complaint through the ABC.

RMIT ABC Fact Check is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network's code of principles. The IFCN has an independent complaints process for readers who believe a fact-checking organisation has violated the code.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From "About" (https://ab.co/3r1gdqS) page:

We do not check the work of journalists, from the ABC or elsewhere.

We aim to be available to all audiences by operating across multiple platforms, including television, radio and online.

Fact Check suggestions from the audience are welcomed and can be submitted via the contact page, or via our Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Contact page (https://ab.co/3qZdzSw), Facebook (https://bit.ly/3r0hnmk) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ABCFactCheck) pages are all hyperlinked).

Audience comment and feedback is encouraged."


done_all 4.5 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0


We also have a video explaining our entire process from selection to publishing. This is published on our website and on our Facebook page. 

Here is a link:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-23/explainer:-how-does-rmit-abc-fact-check-find-and/9183264


Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Video explainer on website and Facebook page: https://ab.co/2yCPGZD 

Also see "Our methodology" on the "About" page: https://ab.co/3r1gdqS 


done_all 5.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All criteria have been met.


done_all 5.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All criteria have been met.


done_all 5.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All criteria have been met.


done_all 5.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

All criteria have been met. 


done_all 5.5 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

The full text including links can be read on our website here:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0

It says in part: Fact Check only tests claims made in the public domain by politicians, public figures and advocacy groups.

We check claims which can be tested against available data at the time they were made.

We do not check the work of journalists, from the ABC or elsewhere.

We aim to be available to all audiences by operating across multiple platforms, including television, radio and online.

Fact check suggestions from the audience are welcomed and can be submitted via the contact page, or via our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Audience comment and feedback is encouraged.

All verdicts fall into three colour-based categories: in the red, in the green or in between – red being a negative ruling, and green being positive.

In the interests of transparency, all sources relevant to the verdicts are identified online.

Our aim is to be 100 per cent accurate. But if a mistake is made, the item in question will be corrected and if necessary the verdict revised.

Statements can be both right and wrong, depending on when they were said. Determinations are therefore based on the evidence available at the time.

If an audience member believes a fact check does not meet our high standards for rigour and accuracy, they can lodge a complaint through the ABC.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

RMIT ABC Fact-Check makes it clear in the About section what they do and don't fact-check: 

"Fact Check only tests claims made in the public domain by politicians, public figures and advocacy groups.

We check claims which can be tested against available data at the time they were made.

We do not check the work of journalists, from the ABC or elsewhere."


done_all 5.6 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

https://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/about/?nw=0

Our About us page states the following: 

If an audience member believes a fact check does not meet our high standards for rigour and accuracy, they can lodge a complaint through the ABC.

RMIT ABC Fact Check is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network's code of principles. The IFCN has an independent complaints process for readers who believe a fact-checking organisation has violated the code.

The link on our Fact heck about page goes to the ABC general complaints form:

https://www.abc.net.au/contact/complain.htm

It states:

Lodge a complaint

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation invites and welcomes your contact.

If you are contacting the ABC to make a complaint, use the online contact form below. If you would like to pass on feedback, a suggestion or need help please click here.

You can also have your say about ABC programs and services on many of our web pages as well as social media sites.

Please help us to understand your complaint:

Tell us which content you are complaining about ‐ for example, the network or service the content was provided on, the name of the program or publication or the webpage address (URL), and the date and time it was broadcast or published.

Clearly outline the nature of your concerns ‐ if you are alleging a breach of the ABC’s Editorial Policies or Code of Practice, tell us which standards you believe have been breached and your reasons for coming to this view.

You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that whilst an anonymous complaint may be submitted, the ABC does not respond to anonymous correspondence. To receive a response to your email please fill in your full name and a valid email address. All emails, including anonymous emails, are noted for the relevant area.

As a statutory corporation that relies on public funds, the ABC must aim to ensure that the time and resources used in dealing with audience complaints are proportionate to the circumstances. The ABC applies a common-sense approach that takes action when warranted, engages where there is value in doing so, and notes criticisms of our performance when there is nothing more of substance we can offer. In some cases, proportionate handling will mean you receive no more than an automated acknowledgement that your message has been received.

The personal information collected in this form will be used to consider (and, if necessary, investigate) your complaint, question or comment and respond where required. Your contact information may be used by ABC Audience Support or ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs for the purposes of conducting surveys. In accordance with the ABC Privacy Policy, we may disclose your contact information to third parties to assist us in hosting these surveys. You can read more about the collection and use of personal information here.

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From the "About" page: "If an audience member believes a fact-check does not meet our high standards for rigour and accuracy, they can lodge a complaint through the ABC. (Link supplied: https://ab.co/2XWbTwE 

RMIT ABC Fact Check is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network's Code of Principles. (Link supplied: https://bit.ly/2Vxp1Jp ). The IFCN has an independent complaints process for readers who believe a fact-checking organisation has violated the code. (Link supplied: https://bit.ly/2S4TNok)


done_all 6.1 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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

Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Required criteria met.


done_all 6.2 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago

Complaints are lodged with the ABC Investigations Manager, ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs who then refers them to us for a response. The investigations manager is independent of the editorial process. Where a full correction is made (We have not been required to make one since RMIT ABC Fact Check was launched in 2016) it is published on the ABC corrections page and a copy is sent to the complainant. 

The following email chains set out the process.

Please find two examples of how RMIT ABC Fact Check has health with two complaints made through the ABC complaints process. 

CASE ONE: 

From: Denise Musto

Sent: Thursday, 1 October 2020 2:15 PM

To: Matt Martino ; Mark Maley

Subject: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - PROPOSED RESPONSE

Hi Both

Matt – thanks again for providing the further information. I have edited the third paragraph of your response very slightly – I just think it could confuse the complainant.

Mark / Matt - please confirm if this response is good to go, or if you have any concerns.

Bests

Denise

Dear Mr Stephens

Thank you for your email regarding the recent RMIT ABC Fact Check article The Victorian branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation says we should follow the COVID-19 approach of Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan. Here's why that's problematic.

In keeping with ABC complaint handling procedures, your correspondence has been referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent from the content making areas of the ABC. Our role is to review and, where appropriate, investigate complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC’s editorial standards (https://edpols.abc.net.au/policies/). Audience and Consumer Affairs have carefully considered your complaint, reviewed information sought from RMIT ABC Fact Check and assessed the article against the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy. Most relevant to your complaint:

2.1 Make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.

In response to your concerns, RMIT ABC Fact Check have provided the following comments:

An article by RMIT ABC Fact Check titled The Victorian branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation says we should follow the COVID-19 approach of Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan. Here's why that's problematic, is the web version of the unit's CoronaCheck newsletter, which is delivered weekly to subscribers' inboxes as well as published on the ABC News website. The newsletter covers a range of topics related primarily to COVID-19 misinformation in the media and on the internet within each issue.

In this case, the item in question, regarding a Facebook post from the Victorian branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, was the lead item. The complainant accuses the article of presenting misleading information regarding the "fatality rate" of COVID-19. We reject this assertion.

The post from One Nation covered in the article calculates a "fatality rate", which appears to be a case fatality rate, of COVID-19 in Victoria. Despite the post listing an incorrect number of fatalities for the time that the post was created (282, as opposed to the correct figure of 334) the article points out that the "correct figure" has been used to arrive at the case fatality rate of 1.96 per cent …

The complainant also accuses the unit of misleading readers by omission of certain points that he considers fundamental. As previously mentioned, the purpose of CoronaCheck is to debunk misinformation related to COVID-19 in the media. Items presented in the newsletter are generally short and sharp, and deal with only the claims made by the claimant in question. While the unit makes every effort to provide key context to these claims, there is not room for a discussion of every issue related to COVID-19 data in every single edition, and it is unreasonable to expect that the unit would cover these issues every single time. The unit has covered some of the issues related to the complainant's complaint outside of CoronaCheck, including here.

As the primary purpose of the article was to analyse and debunk a single Facebook post, we stand by our research and its conclusions as laid out in the article.

Audience and Consumer Affairs have confirmed with RMIT ABC Fact Check that the unit made reasonable efforts to confirm the figures referred to in the article. This includes the 1.96 per cent figure as a calculation of the case fatality rate, which accords with Victorian Government epidemiologists’ calculations. It is clear in the article that the case fatality rate is calculated as a percentage of positive tests. Further, it is explained that there are inconsistencies with the One Nation figures, and as RMIT ABC Fact Check point out, the focus of the article is clearly to debunk the figures put forward in the One Nation post.

Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that reasonable efforts were made to ensure that the material facts were accurate and presented in context, in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards. Thank you again for providing the ABC with an opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Denise Musto

Investigations Manager

Audience and Consumer Affairs

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Thursday, 24 September 2020 12:07 PM

To: Denise Musto

Subject: Re: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

No worries Denise.

Below is an email from the Victorian DHHS which we used as background for the story.

As it was supplied on the basis of background, we'd appreciate if you didn't pass it on to anyone.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Matt

From: "press (DHHS)"

Date: Wednesday, 26 August 2020 at 4:40 pm

To: Ellen McCutchan

Subject: Re: OFFICIAL: RE: RMIT ABC Fact Check Enquiry

Hi Ellen,

Please see below.

Kind regards

Tracey

Background only

As at 17 August:

Cumulative number of tests = 1,975,030 – correct

Individuals with negative results and those with positive results may have multiple tests performed, so the test numbers cannot be used to determine the number of negative cases or positive cases.

Cumulative deaths = 282 - incorrect - as of 17 August 2020 it was 334

Fatality rate of those who tested positive = 334/17027 = 1.96%- correct

We cannot determine the exact "chance of not dying from COVID” as most of the population have not been exposed, largely due to the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus and save lives, so mortality rate is incorrect.

Every COVID-19 positive death is included in the state’s death toll, regardless of whether or not the disease was a direct contributing factor to the death.

This is a standard set by the Commonwealth National Surveillance Committee to ensure consistent reporting across all states and territories.

The Swedish mortality is currently higher than Victoria.

From: Denise Musto

Sent: Thursday, 24 September 2020 10:09 AM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: RE: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

Thanks Matt – I will of course have another look at this – but please could you give me the reference / source for the Victorian Government epidemiologists calculations for the 1.96 per cent figure.

Thanks again for your patience and engagement,

Denise

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Wednesday, 23 September 2020 8:50 AM

To: Denise Musto

Subject: Re: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

Hi Denise,

Here are the extra comments from the unit:

It appears the confusion around these paragraphs has arisen as they are being considered outside their proper context.

To consider the meaning of what the unit has written here, the line before those paragraphs must be read:

It's also worth noting the total death statistic quoted is incorrect.

The figure in the Facebook post actually represents the daily increase in COVID-19 cases for August 17. At that point, the total number of deaths in Victoria was 334. This does not affect the fatality rate, as the correct figure (1.96 per cent) appears to have been used in those calculations.

The post's statistics also include a "mortality rate" — the percentage of Victorians who have died from COVID-19. However, as most Victorians have not yet been exposed to COVID-19 (and it is impossible to know exactly how many have been infected), there's no way of knowing what a person's chances of dying from the disease may be.

However, if all Victorians tested positive for COVID-19, and the current death rate held true, the state could be expected to record more than 130,000 deaths.

The words "correct figure" here are referring to the total death statistic, which was incorrectly transcribed in the Facebook post in question, and not to the case fatality rate, as is being suggested by the complainant.

This line is merely pointing out that the 1.96 per cent figure is an accurate calculation of the case fatality rate (which accords with Victorian Government epidemiologists' calculations), rather than an error which would have resulted from the incorrect total death statistic being used in the calculation.

The final sentence of this section implies that the death rate as quoted from the Facebook post is not set or correct. The words "current death rate" imply that the rate is subject to change and could be influenced by future fluctuations in testing, cases and deaths, rather than being one true figure.

The presence of two "if" clauses implies that this is entirely hypothetical, and no reasonable reader would seriously entertain the idea that every single member of the Victorian population would be infected. It is simply pointing out the logical fallacy of the post's argument that the "mortality rate" of COVID-19 in Victoria would be 0.005 per cent. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Let me know if you need anything else,

Matt

From: Denise Musto

Sent: Tuesday, 22 September 2020 2:49 PM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: RE: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

Thanks so much Matt

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Tuesday, 22 September 2020 2:49 PM

To: Denise Musto

Subject: Re: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

Thanks Denise, I'll liaise with the team and get back to you asap.

From: Denise Musto

Sent: Tuesday, 22 September 2020 2:33 PM

To: Matt Martino

Cc: Mark Maley

Subject: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - FURTHER COMMENTS REQUESTED

Hi Matt

Sincere apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Kirstin has passed complaints about this article on to me.

I do understand that this Fact Check seeks to demonstrate / debunk the flawed logic of the One Nation post, and the fact that they conveniently ignore their own figures for “fatality rate” when calculating the “chance of dying” of COVID. However, I am concerned that the article does not clearly enough attribute the “fatality rate” of 1.96% to One Nation and / or does not put any caveats around this figure or explain the limitations of it.

This is the essential focus of the complaints – the apparent acceptance by Fact Check of the 1.96% figure. I appreciate that these are short stories focussed on debunking misinformation, but I am concerned that this section does not provide quite enough context when referring to the 1.96% fatality rate:

The figure in the Facebook post actually represents the daily increase in COVID-19 cases for August 17. At that point, the total number of deaths in Victoria was 334. This does not affect the fatality rate, as the correct figure (1.96 per cent) appears to have been used in those calculations.

The post's statistics also include a "mortality rate" — the percentage of Victorians who have died from COVID-19. However, as most Victorians have not yet been exposed to COVID-19 (and it is impossible to know exactly how many have been infected), there's no way of knowing what a person's chances of dying from the disease may be.

However, if all Victorians tested positive for COVID-19, and the current death rate held true, the state could be expected to record more than 130,000 deaths.

Again, my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I would appreciate your further consideration of this point.

Very bests

Denise

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Tuesday, September 1, 2020 3:58:23 PM (UTC+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

To: ABC Corporate_Affairs6

Subject: Re: C35544-20 - Paul Stephens: Action required - COMMENTS REQUESTED

Hi Kirstin,

Please find comments for this one below. I'll send comments for the other one through in a separate email.

STARTS

An article by RMIT ABC Fact Check titled The Victorian branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation says we should follow the COVID-19 approach of Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan. Here's why that's problematic, is the web version of the unit's CoronaCheck newsletter, which is delivered weekly to subscribers' inboxes as well as published on the ABC News website. The newsletter covers a range of topics related primarily to COVID-19 misinformation in the media and on the internet within each issue.

In this case, the item in question, regarding a Facebook post from the Victorian branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, was the lead item. The complainant accuses the article of presenting misleading information regarding the "fatality rate" of COVID-19. We reject this assertion.

The post from One Nation covered in the article calculates a "fatality rate", which appears to be a case fatality rate, of COVID-19 in Victoria. Despite the post listing an incorrect number of fatalities for the time that the post was created (282, as opposed to the correct figure of 334) the article points out that the "correct figure" has been used to arrive at the case fatality rate of 1.96 per cent. The article does not imply that this is the "correct" fatality figure for any location, nor does it posit a "correct figure" for anywhere in the world collectively. It is simply pointing out that the post made an error, presumably of transcription, but that its calculations used the appropriate Victorian death figure in spite of this.

The complainant also accuses the unit of misleading readers by omission of certain points that he considers fundamental. As previously mentioned, the purpose of CoronaCheck is to debunk misinformation related to COVID-19 in the media. Items presented in the newsletter are generally short and sharp, and deal with only the claims made by the claimant in question. While the unit makes every effort to provide key context to these claims, there is not room for a discussion of every issue related to COVID-19 data in every single edition, and it is unreasonable to expect that the unit would cover these issues every single time. The unit has covered some of the issues related to the complainant's complaint outside of CoronaCheck, including here.

As the primary purpose of the article was to analyse and debunk a single Facebook post, we stand by our research and its conclusions as laid out in the article.

ENDS

Image removed by sender. ABC

Matt Martino

Journalist, RMIT ABC Fact Check


CASE TWO

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Tuesday, 23 June 2020 3:23 PM

To: Leighton Elliot

Subject: Re: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: DRAFT TO CLEAR

Hi Leighton,

Apologies, I thought I had replied to you but I mustn't have hit send. You're good to send this one out.

Sorry for the delay,

Matt

From: Leighton Elliot

Sent: Tuesday, 23 June 2020 3:20 PM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: FW: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: DRAFT TO CLEAR

Hi Matt,

Sorry to pester you. This complaint is almost at 50 days and I’m keen to get my response sent out if you don’t have any concerns with it. Please let me know.

Many thanks,

Leighton

From: Leighton Elliot

Sent: Wednesday, 17 June 2020 4:21 PM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: FW: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: DRAFT TO CLEAR

Hi Matt,

Just following up on this one. Please let me know if you’re okay with my draft response.

Regards,

Leighton

From: Leighton Elliot

Sent: Thursday, 11 June 2020 2:52 PM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: DRAFT TO CLEAR

Hi Matt,

Kirstin passed this complaint to me, thanks for your comments. Please let me know if you have any concerns with my proposed response.

Many thanks,

Leighton

Dear Mr Heberley,

Thank you for your email regarding the RMIT ABC Fact Check ‘Scott Morrison says Australia is doing better on COVID-19 than New Zealand despite a less extreme lockdown. Is he correct?’ and the ABC News Online article ‘Coronavirus numbers have put Australia's growth factor back above one — should we be worried?’ both published on 6 May 2020. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

In keeping with ABC complaint handling procedures, your concerns have been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of content making areas within the ABC. Our role is to review and, where appropriate, investigate complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC’s editorial standards. We have carefully considered your complaint, sought comments from RMIT ABC Fact Check and assessed the content against the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy and impartiality (https://edpols.abc.net.au/policies/).

In terms of your concerns in relation to the Fact Check article, the RMIT ABC Fact Check team have explained that the graphical representation alongside the ‘fair call’ verdict is an asterisk, a third of which is shaded orange, with the other two thirds green. This signals to readers that the finding is nuanced, rather than a green circle with a tick, which would have been used in the case of a claim the team considered more definitively correct. The article provides relevant context to readers to understand the nuanced finding; it notes that there are various limitations in making such comparisons between Australia and New Zealand, that the Prime Minister’s claim can be assessed from different angles, including some where New Zealand achieved better outcomes, and acknowledges expert opinion that it is “too early to make definitive judgements”. Notwithstanding this, the ‘fair call’ verdict was based primarily on an analysis of new daily cases per capita and daily deaths per capita in the period immediately following the lockdowns in both countries up to the time Mr Morrison made his claim. The article explains that RMIT ABC Fact Check placed greater weight on these two measures – on which Australia achieved better outcomes in the timeframe and in the context of the different severity of restrictions imposed in the two countries – which it considered to capture the picture after lockdowns were imposed and better reflected the Prime Minister’s claim. The team point out that a verdict of ‘misleading’, which you contend is more appropriate, would have to ignore these statistics.

RMIT ABC Fact Check advise that its approach in using a three-day rolling average is consistent with methodology applied by others when comparing countries, such as the Oxford-University based organisation Our World In Data.

With regard to your concern about the article ‘Coronavirus numbers have put Australia's growth factor back above one — should we be worried?’, Audience and Consumer Affairs note that there is no editorial requirement that this article use the same methodology as the Fact Check piece. In terms of your suggestion that it “changed to a formula which aligned with the PMs narrative”, it is the case that the article clearly and transparently explains the reasoning for its changed approach to a seven-day rolling average, ensuring that readers are provided with sufficient context to understand the methodology used.

We are unable to provide you with an explanation from a statistician in regard to “why a rolling 5 day window was not appropriate for removing growth factor volatility”. Being journalism, these articles are covered by journalistic standards. Audience and Consumer Affairs have reviewed them against the ABC’s editorial standards.

On consideration of your complaint, our review of the articles, and the response from RMIT ABC Fact Check, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the articles are in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy and impartiality; the assessment of the Prime Minister’s claim in the Fact Check is qualified and sufficiently contextualised. We see no evidence to support your contention that either article “appears to be a government supporting Covid-19 narrative rather than a balanced view”. However, please be assured that the concerns you raised have been noted and brought to the attention of ABC News management and the Fact Check team.

Thank you again for providing the ABC with an opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

L Elliot

Audience and Consumer Affairs

From: Matt Martino

Sent: Monday, 25 May 2020 9:56 AM

To: ABC Corporate_Affairs6 ; Kirstin McLiesh

Subject: Re: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: Action required - COMMENTS REQUESTED

Hi Kirstin,

Apologies this is a little late. Here are our comments:

Fact Check's finding that Mr Morrison made a "fair call" in claiming Australia had been getting better per capita outcomes than NZ following the lockdowns imposed in both countries was mainly based on an analysis of daily cases per capita and daily deaths per capita, on both of which Australia had a better outcome. A verdict of "misleading" would have had to ignore these two statistics.

The graphical representation that went alongside this verdict was an asterisk, a third of which was shaded orange, with the other two thirds green. The verdict section acknowledges that New Zealand's outcome on the measure of total (cumulative) cases per capita. It also acknowledges expert opinion that it is "too early to make definitive judgements" and both of these facts contributed to this representation, in lieu of a green circle with a tick, which would be used in the case of claims which are more definitively correct.

Fact Check always assesses claims using the data which was available at the time the claim was made. This fact check uses data from Monday, March 30, up to and including April 15, as a basis for comparison, as this represented the period immediately following the lockdowns imposed in both countries, up to the most recent full day of data available at the time Mr Morrison made his claim.

Fact Check believes these measures, and the timeframe applied, capture the picture after the lockdowns were imposed, and better reflect Mr Morrison's claim about "the outcomes we are getting".

This methodology is consistent with that used on other fact checks, where a word is used to sum up our analysis of the claim and a graphical representation is used to provide nuance and context.

In terms of the methodology used on the data, we used a three day rolling average simply to iron some of volatility from the daily figures. The use of, say, a seven day rolling average would have "smoothed" the data even more over this period, but the conclusion would not have changed.

This approach is consistent with the methodology applied by others. For example, the Oxford University-based organisation, Our World In data, also commonly applies a three-day rolling average (among other measures) when comparing countries.

Let me know if you need anything else,

Matt

From: ABC Corporate_Affairs6

Sent: Thursday, 14 May 2020 11:10 AM

To: Matt Martino

Subject: C27249-20 - Nathan Heberley: Action required - COMMENTS REQUESTED

Hi Matt, Could you please provide some background about how your final rating is determined, and particularly what led this one to be classified as 'fair call'? I thought I'd previously seen a webpage which provided a more nuanced explanation about how these ratings are arrived at, but I wasn't able to find it when I looked this time. Thanks for your help. Kind regards, Kirstin

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Dear ABC Fact Check editorial,

Please review contact C27249-20 from Nathan Heberley and provide comments on the issue/s raised to Kirstin McLiesh by 21 May 2020. Do not respond directly to the audience member.

If you have any questions, please contact Kirstin McLiesh.

------------------------------------------------------------

To: Audience & Consumer Affairs

From: Nathan Heberley (nheberley@gmail.com)

Subject: Persistent Narrative

Date: 6-May-2020 10:43

Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by Nathan Heberley (nheberley@gmail.com)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

ABC program: ABC Online News Articles

Response required: Yes

Date of program: 6-May-2020

Contact type: Complaint

Location: ACT

Subject: Persistent Narrative

Comments: Hello ABC

I am becoming increasingly concerned by what appears to be a government supporting Covid-19 narrative rather than a balanced view.

Two notable examples are the change in calculating of the Growth Factor chart as well as the most recent Fact Check.

- https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-06/coronavirus-numbers-raise-covid19-growth-factor/12217846

- https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-06/fact-check-is-australia-getting-better-covid19-outcomes-than-nz/12215476

Growth Factor:

I noticed that the formula was changed to "smooth" out the growth factor chart at a time the Federal Government was pushing hard to reopen schools and push a narrative that the virus is under control and it is safe to do so. The graph at the time showed a greater than 1 factor, with a rolling window of 5 days, which contradicted the PM's narrative. Next it is changed to a formula which aligned with the PMs narrative.

Fact Check:

Quite simply put, the data presented in the article clearly highlights that the PM's narrative "the outcomes we are getting are actually on a per capita basis actually better than what is happening in New Zealand" is MISLEADING, not a FAIR CALL. It would require a legalistic mindset and immensely narrow focus to come ot the conclusion of a fair call.

Providing even coverage of both sides of an argument is not the same as being impartial in representing the facts. In fact I would go so far as to state that it is the exact opposite as it provides an unfair platform for misleading information to be disseminated throughout the general public.

I would also like to note that the Fact Check team used a rolling 3 day window for the article and yet the ABC decided a week on week comparison rather than a rolling 5 day window was better suited to remove volatility.

I could provide many more examples of this type of editorial behaviour but I suspect the two examples are enough to highlight the point.

I would appreciate a response clearly articulating the following:

1. a clear explanation (from a statistician) why a rolling 5 day window was not appropriate for removing growth factor volatility.

2. How an article can provide clear evidence of a misleading statement which concluding the exact opposite.

3. an explanation of the governance controls which protect journalists & editors from managerial interference

Thank you

Network - ABC Online

RecipientName - Audience & Consumer Affairs

Referrer - Complaint

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Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Complaints about fact-checks are lodged with the ABC Investigations Manager, ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs who then refers them to RMIT ABC Fact-Check for a response.

This is from RMIT ABC's Fact Check's membership renewal application:

"The investigations manager is independent of the editorial process. Where a full correction is made (We have not been required to make one since RMIT ABC Fact Check was launched in 2016) it is published on the ABC corrections page and a copy is sent to the complainant."

Lengthy email chains relating to two different complaints made through the ABC complaints process. were supplied with this application. They give valuable insight into how complaints are handled.


done_all 6.3 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
Please note the link to the IFCN in the About section found here:
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

From "About" (https://ab.co/3r1gdqS): "RMIT ABC Fact Check is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network's code of principles. (Links to: https://bit.ly/3xA0Bx0). The IFCN has an independent complaints process (Links to https://bit.ly/2Vxp1Jp) for readers who believe a fact-checking organisation has violated the code. (Links to https://bit.ly/2S4TNok)

 


done_all 6.4 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.

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.

RMIT ABC Fact Check
01-Jun-2021 (6 months ago) Updated: 5 months ago
There is a link in the cross bar of ABC News online to Fact Check: 


https://www.abc.net.au/news/politics/

Fact Check also figures prominently on the ABC News Online mobile phone app. 

Here is a link to the ABC complaints and corrections policy which RMIT ABC Fact Check is bound to under the partnership agreement. 

https://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/what-guides-us/abc-editorial-standards/

Consumers can also complain to the media regulator the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) about any content on the ABC including fact checks. For details please go to this link:

https://www.acma.gov.au/complaints 

Files Attached
Screenshot 2021-06-0... (161 KB) Screenshot 2021-06-0... (161 KB)
Raymond Joseph Assessor
10-Jul-2021 (4 months ago) Updated: 4 months ago

Link in crossbar of ABC News online to Fact Check:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/ 

Fact Check also figures prominently on the ABC News Online mobile phone app.

Link to the ABC complaints and corrections policy which RMIT ABC Fact Check is bound to under their partnership agreement.

https://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/what-guides-us/abc-editorial-standards/

Consumers can also complain to the media regulator the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) about any content on the ABC including fact checks. (https://www.acma.gov.au/complaints)


done_all 6.5 marked as Compliant by Raymond Joseph.