FactCheck.org is one of the most prominent organizations, alongside sites like Politifact and Snopes, that endeavors to help readers determine what is true and false online. The site has sought to be a voice of neutrality and reason in recent years, including in turbulent times for the online news space, such as during Covid-19 and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. So, how reliable of a source is FactCheck.org?

How Factual Is FactCheck.org?

The Factual’s news rating algorithm analyzes more than 10,000 articles a day along four metrics: author expertise, publication history, writing tone, and cited sources and quotes. (See our How It Works page to learn more.) For this study, we analyzed 1,000 articles each from 245 major news sources.

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, FactCheck.org scored an average Factual Grade of 85.3%. This is the highest average score out of all 245 news sources that we analyzed. It is also well above the 61.9% average for all sources.

Considering Americans’ trepidation about finding reliable news, it is relieving to know that FactCheck.org performs exactly as described. Our data shows that articles from the site score extremely well on multiple dimensions. Articles are written by authors with topical expertise, meaning individuals who routinely cover the same topic in detail. Articles are exceptionally well sourced, meaning they not only feature numerous links to external sources, but these sources are often from a diverse array of sites. And finally, articles generally use a neutral tone, seeking to convey information, not opinion.

Like any news source, scores for articles from FactCheck.org varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, many scored above 90%, while others scored below 70%.

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How Opinionated Is FactCheck.org?

The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

FactCheck.org had an average Writing Tone score of 0.70, placing it in the 74th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from FactCheck.org largely use a neutral tone and avoid using opinionated language.

What Is the Political Bias of FactCheck.org?

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification comes from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns FactCheck.org a “Center” bias.

AllSides rates FactCheck.org as “Center,” according to an independent review and 14,796 community ratings. However, AllSides notes that the site may at time exhibit a left-leaning bias. During their 2020 review, they documented a disproportionate number of articles focusing on former president Trump and other top Republicans, though they note this could be because these individuals were the “most major political players at the moment.” 

MBFC rates FactCheck.org as “Least Biased,” its rating for centrist sources. They give the site credit for “minimal bias and [using] very few loaded words” as well as what they call “impeccable sourcing of information.” MBFC trusts the source for its own fact-checking needs and says: “Quite simply, Factcheck.org can be trusted to provide accurate fact checks with minimal bias.”

Who Owns FactCheck.org?

FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and receives funding from the Annenberg Foundation, a philanthropic organization “dedicated to addressing the critical issues of our time through innovation, community, compassion, and communication.” Additional funding for the organization now comes from independent contributions. FactCheck.org maintains stringent transparency measures that require the public identification of all donations that exceed $1,000. 

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Why Does It Matter?

News articles alway have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.